GOVERNMENT has launched an investigation into how former diamond miner Anjin Investments was looted and stripped of assets worth millions of dollars during the two years it has not been operating after its mining licence was controversially terminated in 2016, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
By Tinashe Kairiza
Anjin, whose shareholders are Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company Ltd of China (Afecc) and Matt Bronze, an investment vehicle controlled by Zimbabwe’s military, had sunk an estimated US$225 million into the diamond mining venture before government terminated mining licences of several firms extracting gems in Chiadzwa for failure to remit taxes and royalties.
The concessions of the other firms formerly operating in Chiadzwa, namely Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Kusena, Gye Nyame, Jinan and DTZ Ozgeo, were subsequently merged under the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), a state-run entity that is now undertaking conglomerate mining after the rapid depletion of alluvial gems.
Mbada Diamonds has also dragged ZCDC to court over abuse of its equipment and looting of diamond ore.
Anjin general manager Shingi Manyeruke said that during the firm’s two-year shut down there has been systematic “looting and stripping” of assets, prompting the government-instituted probe. He said contrary to reports that Anjin had vacated the Chiadzwa diamond fields, the miner has maintained a presence in the area since 2016.
“We are still on the ground in Chiadzwa looking after our facilities, the only setback has been the rampant looting and stripping of production infrastructure. The abrupt shut down of the mine and subsequent looting and asset stripping posed a significant risk to the investment,” Manyeruke said.
“There are investigations on the matter by relevant government-related organs currently ongoing. We are waiting for findings from the aforesaid investigations.”
Manyeruke said the miner was also conducting an independent investigation to determine the full “extent of the financial prejudice” the firm could have suffered as a result of the looting.
Anjin’s concessions, said Manyeruke, were not amalgamated under ZCDC due to an application it filed with the Constitutional Court challenging government’s decision to terminate the firm’s mining rights.
As a result of the abrupt termination of mining operations, Manyeruke said Anjin had since laid off part of its workforce to rein in an unsustainable wage bill when the firm had ceased operations.
“We have got very few members of staff assisting with care, maintenance and some security duties at the mine. The rest of the staff we mutually terminated the employment contracts following abrupt closure of the mine,” he said, noting that Anjin was now footing its salary bill through borrowings from affiliate companies.
In Zimbabwe, Anjin’s investment portfolio includes the three-star Golden Peacock Villa hotel in Mutare, while it also has interest in the Long Cheng Plaza mall through Afecc.
After suspending operations, Anjin was directed to surrender its diamond stockpile which was auctioned by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ). Subsequently, the miner received its share of earnings after government had deducted taxes.
“We had diamonds, but after the abrupt closure of the mine, we subsequently received a directive from the then permanent secretary of Mines Francis Gudyanga to hand over all diamonds in our possession to MMCZ for sale since we no longer had rights to mine or hold diamonds,” Manyeruke said.
“We obliged, did all the necessary formalities as per norm and handed over the diamonds for auctioning by MMCZ and the government-appointed diamond selling agent First Element. The diamonds were sold and as usual government deducted its taxes, commissions and fees at source and then paid us our net amount.”
Resumption of production would hinge upon the outcome of the Constitutional Court case and new diamond legislation government is crafting, he said.
Recently, a visit to the Chiadzwa diamond fields by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) revealed suspicions that the miner was on the verge of resuming operations after the activists noticed that premises were being spruced up.
After shutting down operations, some of the firms formerly mining diamonds in Chiadzwa disposed of their equipment and machinery through an auction system.