Diamond production down 76pc

HARARE - Zimbabwe's diamond production has declined by 76 percent following the country’s compulsory acquisition of Marange fields in February this year, latest figures show.

Information released by the central bank revealed that diamond output deteriorated to 152 475 carats in the first quarter of 2016, compared to 639 377 carats produced during the same period in 2015.

This comes as industry experts have questioned the country’s cash-strapped government decision to cancel diamond mining companies’ licences and establish an

incompetent and illegal entity — the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC).

Centre for Natural Resource Governance director Farai Maguwu said the formation of ZCDC was built on lies meant to line pockets of a few individuals.

“My take is that government is taking the nation for a ride. The promise of $30 million was meant to justify the takeover of Marange by a new group of looters-led

officials in the Mines ministry, who are saying it’s our turn to eat.

“The way ZCDC was set up clearly shows it was meant to continue with the opaqueness of its predecessors with no transparency in appointment of ZCDC staff and board,” he said.

This was after Mines minister Walter Chidakwa early this year said the state-owned enterprise — operating without an Act of Parliament — would be selling 500 000 carats every month earning the country an average of $30 million.

However, information at hand shows that the parastatal, which is only operating on the now defunct Marange Resources and Diamond Mining Company claims due to pending court cases, is producing far less than the two companies used to generate.

A senior Minerals and Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe official said the failure by ZCDC to ramp up production was forcing government to postpone pay dates for civil servants as it struggles with declining revenue streams.

“Surprisingly, based on government communication, diamond prices have suddenly gone down to an all-time low of $31,49 per carat compared to the $55 per carat we used to get. The decline in prices is mostly due to poor quality and naivety of the ZCDC management,” the official said.

The source added that government — through the MMCZ — was looking at ways to improve diamond production and get better prices.

Chidakwa, who has come under fire for misleading the nation into believing that Zimbabwe lost $15 billion in diamond revenue, is also increasingly finding it difficult to justify the continued operations of ZCDC following revelations of massive corruption and mismanagement at the company.

Zanu PF legislator Daniel Shumba blamed Mines permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga for single-handedly making costly decisions at ZCDC where he is the acting chairperson.

“The sector affects Zimbabweans’ livelihoods and economy and the financial stability of the country. We will be taking other litigation steps to save the country from chaos,” he said.

Zimbabwe ordered all diamond miners in Marange to cease operations on February 22 after they resisted its proposals to nationalise the industry.

The government said the miners’ licences had expired and accused them of failing to account for revenue from their operations.

Seven miners who operated in Marange where government held 50 percent shareholding included Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Jinan, Kusena, Marange Resources, DTZ-Ozgeo and Mbada Diamonds.

While the Marange fields are regarded as one of the world’s richest alluvial diamond deposits, experts say the country has not benefitted much from the gems.

According to the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, Marange fields are estimated to have produced around 17 million carats in 2013, which was 13 percent of the global rough diamond supply.

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