Botswana miner snubs Zim

HARARE - Aim-listed Botswana Diamonds (BD) says it has shelved plans to establish a mining venture in Zimbabwe after it lost its targeted Marange diamond claims to the Chinese.

The junior gem miner said it is opting for Mozambique instead.

John Teeling, BD’s chairperson, said Harare frustrated the group’s efforts to secure a concession in the diamond-rich Marange fields.

“We were totally frustrated in our attempts to gain a licence. We signed up Block J in Marange. While awaiting presidential ratification the block was unilaterally given to a Chinese group,” said Teeling.

He said BD had no future plans to reconsider Zimbabwe.

Teeling said BD had obtained a licence in Chimanimani — Eastern part of Zimbabwe — by conceding 69 percent to local interests, adding that “unfortunately locals who just want cash demanded $3 million for the 31 percent. We did not give it to them.”

Zimbabwe’s indigenisation policy compels all foreign-owned companies to cede at least 51 percent of their shareholding to locals, despite nature of business.

Savior Kasukuwere, Indigenisation minister, has vowed that no foreign-owned firm will be exempted from complying with the empowerment policy.

BD, which has diamonds interests in Botswana and Cameroon, also abandoned its sampling programme in the Masvingo/Beitbridge area.

“We sampled Beitbridge. We did not like the results so we dropped the ground,” said Teeling, adding that “this was partly due to the… political difficulties in Zimbabwe.”

Despite the recent discovery of four kimberlites in Bikita, closer to the area BD conducted the bulk sampling, Teeling maintains that he is fed up with the southern African country.

The group, which previously showed a strong appetite to join the bandwagon in Zimbabwe diamond exploration, has been granted a licence to prospect for diamonds on the Save River, Mozambique, next to the Zimbabwean border.

The Botswana-focused diamond exploration and project development company recently partnered a Mozambican firm, Morminas, to explore potential alluvial diamond deposits.

“Botswana Diamonds surveyed the area in Mozambique, south east of Marange. There is an expectation of alluvial and eluvial diamonds washed down from Marange. We have optioned two blocks on the river.

“We are currently reviewing all available data prior to a sampling programme on the blocks,” said Teeling.

The agreement signed stipulates that preliminary prospecting will be carried out in a six-month period and if the results are positive a long-term contract may be signed.

Morminas, a company founded in 2011, had two partners, Mozambican Lucas Fazine Chachine, with 51 percent of the capital and Portuguese company Sociedade Portuguesa de Inertes de Granito (Sopir) with the remaining 49 percent, which later became part of Electricidade Industrial Portuguesa and was 60 percent owned by EIP, SA and the remaining 40 percent by Granitos de Portugal (Granital).

The BD group has projected to mine around 16,9 million carats of diamonds in the region this year. - John Kachembere

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