Zim Diaspora

Aug 18th
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Zimbabwe's diamond deposits worth US$800 billion

The value of the diamond deposits in Zimbabwe's Marange area in Manicaland could be worth up to US$800- billion and could be mined for the next 80 years or more.

"From what has been done in research, the fields hold at least three billion carats. The companies that have been working there are only declaring medium grade stones whose value stands at about $50 or $100 per carat. There are stones of a higher quality there too," a top level source told the South African Sunday Times.

"If operations at Marange are well managed, Zimbabwe can make anywhere in the region of $75-billion to $200-billion in the next 50 years and that could reach $800-billion in 80 years," he said.

Zimbabwe is soon expected to reap a US$2-billion windfall from the sale of its controversial diamonds amid growing concerns in government and public circles of possible siphoning of the proceeds after the recent disappearance of US$30-million realised from the shady trade of the gems.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) monitor for Zimbabwe,

Abbey Chikane, who is also chairman of the South African Diamond Board, was expected in Harare yesterday to certify the sale of more than four million carats of diamonds stocked by government and its mining partners.

Chikane was expected to endorse the resumption of the sale of diamonds following a resolution of the World Diamond Council in Russia last month and the KPCS's endorsement allowing Zimbabwe to sell its controversial gems widely described by human rights groups as "blood diamonds" due to human rights abuses at the diamond fields.

However, there are growing fears that the money could be siphoned by President Robert Mugabe's cronies who have been selling diamonds, but failing to account for the proceeds.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti announced on July 14, during his mid-year fiscal policy review statement in Parliament, that $30-million from diamond sales was missing.

"According to the KPCS monitor, Zimbabwe recently sold at least $30- million worth of diamonds from Marange which Treasury and Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) have no record or knowledge of," Biti said.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu denied that the money had vanished and dismissed

Biti's statement as "hot air", but failed to produce evidence of where the money was.

Mpofu said a forensic audit of diamonds mined in Marange was under way and would prove Biti wrong.

After the mandate established by the Seventh Annual Plenary of the KPCS, which met in November in Swakopmund, Namibia, the chairman of the Working

Group on Monitoring, Stéphane Chardon, invited Chikane to Zimbabwe to evaluate and report on all aspects of the Joint Work Plan.

Chikane visited Zimbabwe twice and compiled a report saying the country had complied with KPCS processes.

Operations at the diamond fields have been chaotic with political heavyweights maintaining a tight presence in the area.

There is a heavy presence of Chinese mining companies in one of the diamond-rich areas in the Eastern Highlands.

"The army has been assisting Chinese miners to operate at the junction of Odzi and Save Rivers," the source said.

A Manicaland official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one Chinese company called Anjin China-Zimbabwe had set up shop in the area two months ago, under the watchful eye of the Zimbabwean army.

"The army is there for security measures as well as accountability. The company is owned by Chinese military men in conjunction with some top officials from the Zimbabwean army. This has not gone down well with locals because the Chinese are not hiring them," said the source. Sunday Times