The project is part of an ambitious plan by the country’s Ministry of Mines and Development, the goal of which is to raise output in various sector significantly, putting about $12 billion a year into the national treasury.
Speaking to the media, Mining and Development Minister Winston Chitando said improved production by four companies, among them including the Russian headquartered Alrosa and the Chinese-owned Anjin, would raise diamond output, mostly from the eastern Chiadzwa area.
Anjin is currently in the process of restarting mining at its concession, after it was expelled from Chiadzwa in 2016 out for refusing to merge with at state-owned diamond firm
Alrosa reportedly has plans to begin prospecting and mining diamonds in the area, as has the UK-listed Vast Resources.
A CRUCIAL TEST FOR ZIMBABWE’S NEW GOVERNMENT
The new plan will prove to be an important test for the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who rose to power after a bloodless coup in 2017 when the nonagenarian president, Robert Mugabe, was removed from office and arrested.
At the time, 93-year-old Mugabe was the world’s oldest heads of state and among of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. He died earlier this year.
In 2012, when Zimbabwean rough diamond production reportedly stood at 12 million carats, it was estimated that the Chiadzwa diamond fields in the east of the country comprised about 13 percent of global rough diamond supply. The aggregate worth of its deposit was estimated to be between $60 billion and $70 billion.
An aerial photograph of Zimbabwe’s diamond-rich Chiadzwa area.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who rose to power after a bloodless coup in 2017, is trying to create conditions that will revive the Zimbabwean diamond mining sector.
Chiadzwa is home to Zimbabwe’s controversial Marange diamond fields, which experienced a mining rush that started in September 2006, leading to water, sanitation and housing crisis.
The government then took over. In an operation called “No Return,” armed soldiers were deployed to forcibly removed villagers and artisanal miners from the area. Some local villagers were used for forced labor.
A DIAMOND PRODUCER WITH UNPROVEN POTENTIAL
Zimbabwe has yet to really prove itself as a major diamond resource. When the alluvial deposits in the east of the country were first discovered, pundits predicted that the country would soon develop into one of the world’s leading producers of rough diamonds, with the potential of injecting up to $2 billion annually into Zimbabwe’s ailing economy
But the Mugabe government’s corruption and hastiness in handing out concessions to underqualified, underfinanced and sometimes unscrupulous interests hamstrung the developing center.
In 2014, Zimbabwe received only $396 million in revenue from diamond mining, down from $456 million in 2013. Rough diamond output had plummeted to about 4.7 million carats, and over a two-year period production was down by 57.4 percent. It fell to 3.3 million carats in 2015 and to 2 million carats in 2016.
The country’s then Mines and Mining Development Minister, Walter Chidhakwa, later admitting that a decision to expel private mining companies from Chiadzwa area had backfired. Legal action taken by certain of them prevented the government from executing its plan to control the area through a single state-owned venture, and 5,000 miners were left unemployed.