Ticking time bomb in diamond sector

...as ZCDC invites artisanal miners

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TINASHE MAKICHI

Zimbabwe is on the verge of plunging its multi-million dollar diamonds sector into chaos following revelations that stateowned diamond miner is considering opening the rich floodgates to artisanal miners.

The plan to informalise mining operations in the diamond-rich Marange district in Manicaland province was announced by the ZCDC chief executive Morris Mpofu recently, a move which has since been labelled as clear lack of understanding of how the diamond industry must operate.

“We’re considering ring-fencing our alluvial fields to accommodate local villagers to come and officially register to do artisanal mining,” Mpofu is quoted saying recently.

A diamond mining expert who requested anonymity told this publication that the move to open up the mining of the precious stone is a disaster in waiting, which is going to reverse the gains achieved ten years ago in just one stroke.

The expert noted that the opening up of the whole diamond mining landscape to artisanal miners is expected to pose an enormous threat to the country’s current KPC membership.

The Kimberley Process, which regulates the world diamond trade in an effort to prevent the gems being used to fund conflict, might be forced to consider suspending Zimbabwe, which would effectively ban its diamond exports. This emanates from the fact that the opening up of the sector to artisanal miners is tantamount to creation of conflicts.

Zimbabwe struggled to get KP certification until late 2011 due to incidents of violence and gross human rights abuses around diamond mining in Chiadzwa with concerns over transparency in processes and what was termed illicit diamond trade.

The Business Times is informed that some illegal diamond buyers have since flooded Mutare following revelations that some security fence around the Marange diamond fields has been destroyed.

A source at the mines said there is no security fence to talk about at the moment and last week the whole Mutare City was buzzing following the illegal sale of a diamond stone weighing 43 carats.

“Can you imagine a 43 carat was the talk of Mutare last week, which was illegally sold for US$900 000. Where is ZCDC security in all this?” said a source at the mine.