HARARE: RioZim says its Murowa mine is not part of the Zimbabwe government’s plans to nationalize firms in the diamond sector.
On Monday, mines minister Walter Chidhakwa ordered diamond firms operating in the Marange diamond fields to stop operations and gave them 90 days to withdraw their equipment from the mines, saying they had resisted government plans to consolidate operations into one state-dominated mining company.
RioZim, which operates the 400,000 carat per annum Murowa diamond mine in south central Zimbabwe, said in a statement issued Tuesday its operations would not be affected by the government directive.
“Our attention has been drawn to the press statement of 22 February 2016 made by the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Honourable Walter Chidakwa on the above matter. We hereby wish to advise all our stakeholders who include our financiers, suppliers, shareholders and employees that Murowa Diamonds is not part of what the Minister said,” RioZim said in a statement.
“Accordingly, we wish to advise all our stakeholders that Murowa Diamonds continues to operate as usual.”
RioZim, a wholly-owned Zimbabwe spin-off from Rio Tinto, assumed total control of Murowa last when the global mining giant, which owned 78 percent of the operation, divested from Zimbabwe after 60 years.
Announcing the government move to halt all diamond mining operations on Monday, Chidhakwa seemed to suggest that the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, a wholly-owned state entity now held all diamond concessions, including those held by Murowa.
The state has sought to bring all diamond mining operations in the country under one firm in which it would hold a 50 percent shareholding after accusing the miners of failing to account for revenue from their operations.
There are eight miners in Marange, including Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Jinan, Kusena, Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds. The government holds 50 percent shareholding in all the firms.
Chidhakwa charged that the miners had declined the state’s invitation to participate in the new government dominated firm — a move his finance counterpart Patrick Chinamasa said earlier was necessary to bring accountability to the murky dealings in the sector — and that they had failed to renew their operating licences.
Chidhakwa gave the miners 90 days to clear out their equipment and other valuables. Access to the mines during the time will be by request.
The Marange diamond find was regarded as one of the world’s richest alluvial diamond deposits, but its resources are depleting, experts say.
It was estimated to have produced around 17 million carats in 2013, 13 percent of the global rough diamond supply, according to the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.
Marange produced 12 million carats in both 2012 and 2014, while production figures for 2015 are not yet available.
Chidhakwa said government had only received $637,3 million in revenue from the miners since 2010. Since 2009, the miners had only invested $186 million in the joint ventures.
The Chinese-owned Anjin — in which the state holds a 10 percent shareholding — has yet to produce audited accounts since it started operations, documents from the mines ministry show.
At the press conference, Chidhakwa rebuffed efforts by Anjin Chinese representatives to defend the mining operation in terms of a bilateral agreement between Harare and Beijing.