The Sunday News
Kuda Bwititi, Harare Bureau
ALROSA, the world’s largest diamond producer, is targeting high-value gem-quality diamonds from Zimbabwe and believes there is potential for new discoveries of the precious stones.
The mining behemoth has already committed US$12 million for exploration. Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mines and Mining Development Minister, Winston Chitando witnessed the signing of the landmark joint venture deal between the Russian company and State-controlled Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC).
Alrosa’s chief executive officer Mr Sergey Ivanov told our Harare Bureau geological data showed the possibility of kimberlite pipes, which contain top-quality diamonds, in Zimbabwe.
“Yes, our geologists process a lot of information and we see that there are interesting areas where the kimberlite pipes are. But we have to invest a lot of money in terms of identifying whether these kimberlites are diamondiferous (contain diamonds),” he said.
After identifying the pipes, he added, the mining company then determines if they are commercially exploitable.
“We know that in other parts of the world, only one of a 100-kimberlite pipes is economically feasible to develop. So we see the potential of kimberlite pipes in Zimbabwe and we are interested in doing all the geological works,” he said.
Fielding questions from the media after the signing ceremony in the capital, Mr Ivanov said there are targeted areas where further exploration will take place.
“We expect to have more than four spots in Zimbabwe where we see potential and where we need to invest in exploration.
“We hope to get discoveries in all these. . . We see some exploration perspectives on the border with South Africa, the border with Botswana, (the) border with Mozambique; we see that there are some promising geological data and perspectives for new discoveries,” he said.
Alrosa is also focusing on both greenfield (new) and brownfield (already existing) investments, including in Chiadzwa.
Decisions will, however, be made in consultation with ZCDC. The Moscow Stock Exchange-listed firm will begin exploration in September and October this year. Exploitation of diamonds from Marange has mostly been limited to alluvial diamonds and conglomerates, which are located close to the surface.
Geologists say top-quality diamonds lie in kimberlites, which occur in the earth’s crust in vertical structures known as kimberlite pipes. Diamonds in neighbouring Botswana and Namibia fetch higher prices relative to local gems as they are extracted from diamond pipes.
Last week’s deal is a culmination of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent State visit to Russia. In his remarks after consummation of the joint venture between Alrosa and ZCDC, the Head of State and Government said the tie-up was borne out of the successful engagement with the Russian Federation.
“This historic event we are witnessing follows my State visit to the Russian Federation in January 2019, where I had the opportunity to discuss with my counterpart, His Excellency, President Putin, that Alrosa be engaged as one of the technical partners for diamond exploration and mining in Zimbabwe. We are indeed pleased to welcome investment from Alrosa of Russia, which is listed on the Moscow Stock Exchange.”
In the run up to the signing ceremony, a technical committee was constituted to spearhead the transaction. Mining experts say Zimbabwe is under-explored and has no record of its untapped mineral potential. Documents from the Geological Survey gleaned by our Harare Bureau indicate that there is potential for greater diamond reserves in the country as the source of alluvial diamonds from Marange is yet to be discovered. Data also shows that rich diamond deposits could be located along the Umkondo Basin, which links Manicaland and southern parts of the country.
A report at the Geological Survey reads: “The primary sources for Marange diamonds have not been identified. Several kimberlites are known to occur within the environs of the Marange area and beyond. These are, however, much younger than the age of the Umkondo sediments, and cannot be the sources of the diamonds in the ancient conglomerate. It is, however, possible that some diamonds in alluvium of current rivers and creeks could have come from kimberlites found in the Marange area.”