Dumisani Nsingo and Wilson Dakwa, Business Reporters
THE Government will start selling its diamonds on the international market before the end of the year to boost exportation of the precious mineral which had gone down by 29 percent in the first nine months of the year.
Speaking at Zimbabwe School of Mines (ZSM) graduation and prizes awards ceremony in Bulawayo on Friday, Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said diamond exports experienced a slump largely due to the fact that the country was still to market the gems it extracted.
This year’s ZSM 23rd annual graduation and prizes awards ceremony was held under the theme: “Unlocking mineral value for economic growth through provision of highly skilled mining practitioners”.
“Diamond exportation has experienced a 29 percent drop because the extracted diamonds are yet to be marketed and sold. We haven’t sold them because we wanted to ensure that valuation, cleaning, sorting meets international standards,” said Minister Chidhakwa.
The country managed to realise $63 785 922 from diamond export shipments as of 1 January to 15 September this year against $89 787 537 which was realised in the same period last year, resulting in a variance of 29 percent.
“I’m happy to tell you that we have been working with our Botswana counterparts who have been in this industry for over 50 years. We have since made significant progress in realising our objective and will soon start marketing our diamonds to the international community and we will exceed the $89,7 million which was earned from diamonds last year,” said Minister Chidhakwa.
In a sideline interview with Sunday Business after the function, Minister Chidhakwa said the country’s alluvial diamond deposits are on the verge of extinction and refuted claims of new discovery but instead hinted that the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) had invested immensely on the extraction of conglomerates.
“What we have said is that alluvial deposits are towards their end. For the last 10 years approximately, we have been mining alluvial deposits and we are now re-engineering ZCDC to do conglomerates and this is why you see that we have been significantly importing equipment such as crushing, blasting, earth moving equipment in order to re-engineer the company from alluvial diamond mining to conglomerate diamond mining. We haven’t discovered any new deposits of alluvial diamonds but we have made significant progress with the conglomerates,” he said.
Minister Chidhakwa said it was encouraging to note that the mining sector was on rebound despite a myriad of challenges facing the economy.
“It is, therefore, encouraging to note that the mining sector has recorded positive performance despite challenges such as the prevailing liquidity crunch, high inland costs to move bulk materials and outdated technology at most mining operations around the country.
“Nevertheless, Government is making all efforts to improve the operating environment in order to enhance production capacity in the mining sector.
This is in line with the country’s beneficiation and value addition agenda enshrined in Zim Asset and the 10 Point Plan for Economic Growth,” he said.
Minister Chidhakwa said guided by Zim Asset targets and the 10 Point Plan for Economic Growth, the Government was implementing various policies and strategies towards sustainable growth of the mining sector.
“Government is reviewing mining legislation in order to facilitate and promote achieving the country’s present and future aspirations. In that context, my ministry has tabled before Parliament the Mines and Minerals Act Amendment Bill and the Minerals Exploration and Marketing Corporation Bill in order to modernise Zimbabwe’s mining legislative environment in line with best practices,” he said.
Further to that Minister Chidhakwa said: “In order to curb leakages of gold and precious stones while promoting transparency within the trade of these minerals, Government commenced the process of amending the Gold Trade Act and the Precious Stones Trade Act”.
Addressing delegates at the Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba in Bulawayo on Thursday, Minister Chidhakwa also said miners with unutilised concessions risk having their mining rights withdrawn.
“Some miners apply for mining concessions, mining certificates, pay for mining leases and yet there is no mining activity which they are engaged in.
We have received complaints of such people and we have since said they should use their claims or risk losing them because such people don’t have mining at heart,” he said.
Minister Chidhakwa said the Mines and Minerals Act would enable his ministry to probe the utilisation of concessions and forfeit them if need be.
He said the Act would facilitate for a framework which would be used when relocating and compensating people affected by mining operations and also ensuring locals benefit from resources in their area.
“If for example, oil is to be discovered in someone’s homestead, the owner may refuse to be relocated because there will be no framework which protects him/her. We definitely need that framework the Mines and Minerals Act will refer to a code of conduct which will enable us to deal with compensation, relocation and other issues. The compensation will vary, depending on the mineral. We don’t want a situation whereby the locals do not benefit from the resources being extracted from their area,” said Minister Chidhakwa.
He however, bemoaned the haphazard mining behavior that was happening in some parts of the country.
“It is difficult to deal with holes, which are as a result of gold panning activities because they (panners) usually work during the night and the holes only become visible during the day. These holes pose a danger for animals and humans as well. This is the challenge I am presenting before members of Parliament to look at who is digging, if we can we make them pay and how we rehabilitate the environment.
“I instructed ZCDC to show me a prototype of what the land will look like after the mining activities are done. They have since planted trees with the help of the Environmental Management Agency. When we launch ZCDC, we will also showcase what the environment should ideally be like when a mine is done with,” said Minister Chidhakwa.