Zimbabwe may have to stop producing diamonds
Zimbabwe, one of the world’s top diamond-producing countries, may soon have to wave its gem extraction industry good bye as miners operating at Marange and Chiadzwa fields claim it has become economically unviable for them to dig any deeper for the precious stones.
According to State-run Herald newspaper, Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa was told last week that alluvial diamonds —which are easily extractable through open cast mining— have run out and existing miners say they have neither the expertise nor the resources to search for new deposits underground.
If confirmed, the news could be devastating for southern African nation’s economy, which is counting on its diamonds to boost its weak economy, hurt by years of mismanagement and corruption.
Zimbabwe ranks today among the world’s top 10 diamond producers, with the government holding a 50% interest in most of the Marange mining operations.
Since their discovery in 2006, the country’s alluvial diamond deposits have been heavily extracted, providing generous revenues to miners and the government. But as the resource is depleting, revenue has begin to decline.
The director of Anjin Investments, one of the seven companies licensed to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa, told the paper its firm is operating at below break-even point.
"Our ore is much deeper to depths of about 40 metres and some of the areas we have had to abandon mining because it was no longer commercially viable," he said.
The Marange diamond fields, 400 km east of the capital Harare, have been a focus of controversy since 20,000 small-scale miners invaded the area in 2008, being removed later by soldiers and police.
Human rights groups say up to 200 people were killed during the process, charges denied by the previous coalition government formed by President Robert Mugabe and long-time opponent Morgan Tsvangirai.
Images: Zimbabwe's diamonds miner, screenshot from VOAvideo.