Diamond miners face tougher scrutiny
Tendai Mugabe Harare Bureau
The government could have lost millions of dollars when officials it seconded to represent its interests in companies mining diamonds in Chiadzwa allegedly connived with mining houses to under-declare proceeds.As a result, the government is still struggling to ascertain the value of diamonds mined in Chiadzwa to date.
Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said Zimbabwe had not realised what it expected from the diamond fields because of the illicit dealings.
He said the government was working on a robust system to ensure transparency in diamond mining companies’ operations.
As part of the measures, Minister Chidhakwa reiterated government’s resolve to have just one or two mining companies to remain operational in Chiadzwa.
“One of our biggest problems has been that the people we have seconded to some of our mining ventures, where we are in joint ventures, have not done us as Zimbabweans the favour of doing what it is that we asked them to do when they get to those companies,” he said.
“So we want to ensure that we play a much greater role in the management of those companies. We get full information about what is happening in those companies from exploration to mining right up to marketing.”
He said the country was entitled to know the amount of money being accrued from its resources.
“Naturally that creates anxieties on the part of players who have been wanting,” he said. “We are determined because Zimbabweans had not gotten really what they expected from Marange. Even if it is little, let that little be available to the people of Zimbabwe.”
Minister Chidhakwa said streamlining the number of diamond miners would help government better monitor operations in Chiadzwa.
“It will enable us to ensure that the capital requirements, not just for alluvial mining but more importantly for kimberlite mining, are put in place because we will then concentrate our resources on one or two companies.
“We, as government, will be able in a much better way to follow the activities of the companies because they are fewer.”
Minister Chidhakwa said mining companies unhappy with close scrutiny should leave the sector.
Contrary to claims by some companies that diamond reserves in Marange were almost depleted, Minister Chidhakwa said exploration showed that the country was still solid in terms of diamond reserves.
He, however, said there was not much government could do about alleged prejudice by mining companies if there was no evidence.
“You cannot do much, frankly because the joint venture agreements stipulates how you structure the boards,” he said.
“They also stipulate how you are going to choose your management and this is why you hear me consistently saying that the people who are chosen to be on boards of organisations such as these public ones need to defend our interests because they will say this is what we mine.
“You cannot prove that it is not what was actually mined. You can only speculate and speculation cannot take you to any court of law.”
As such, Minister Chidhakwa said, it was important to work on a strong systems to stop prejudice to the state and nation.