THE Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company says artisanal mining in alluvial fields should be embraced as a developmental thrust if the diamond sector is to significantly contribute to economic turnaround.
ZCDC chief executive officer Dr Moris Mpofu told The Sunday Mail Business last week that global diamond experts endorsed artisanal diamond mining during the recent Kimberly Process meeting in Brussels, Belgium.
Dr Mpofu’s remarks follow unprecedented criticism of the decision by ZCDC to consider allowing artisanal miners to participate in mining of alluvial gems.
Opponents of the move claim it can lead to deligitimisation of Zimbabwe’s diamonds on international markets.
Dr Mpofu said ZCDC was “motivated” by the fact that its position on the subject was in sync with perspectives of international diamond experts as aired during KP discussions in Brussels.
“By their own admission, Kimberly Process cannot ignore artisanal diamond mining in African countries, which they believe must be embraced as part of development,” said Dr Mpofu.
“What is of paramount importance is that artisanal mining should be viewed and treated as part of the diamond industry and must be done under ethical conditions. It’s something that is good for African countries and the communities.”
At the Working Group on Artisanal and Alluvial Production on the sidelines of the plenary meetings, KP members acknowledged the importance of having a clear and transparent regulatory framework for artisanal mining.
Monitoring is central to ensuring attainment of organised artisanal mining.
Dr Mpofu said ZCDC was conducting a feasibility study and was considering ring-fencing its alluvial fields for artisanal miners.
“The discussions at KP on this subject confirms that ZCDC is on the right track. ZCDC is exploring the concept of legalising artisanal miners and rope them in its integrated diamond mining model. We hope that through the integration of artisanal miners, ZCDC would convert a threat being posed by illegal miners into a win-win opportunity for all parties,” said Dr Mpofu.
The State-owned miner plans to ring-fence alluvial fields that are no longer viable for mechanised mining.
During the KP meetings, members were reminded that artisanal mining was at the core of the KP’s very establishment.
An undertaking was made for the KP to assist African countries protect and promote artisanal mining.
Examples from other countries have demonstrated that it is possible for artisanal miners to make the transition from illegal subsistence activity to legitimate, economically-viable artisanal mining. In Zimbabwe’s case, the transition is expected to largely benefit local communities who will have regulated access to ZCDC alluvial fields.
They will sell their output to Government through ZCDC.
Dr Mpofu said the “strategic move” would plug diamond leakages and decimate illegal diamond markets.