New figures put forward by a parliamentary backbencher in Harare Friday indicate that more than 37 million carats of diamonds worth over $4billion have been produced so far this year in the controversial Marange fields.
Bulawayo South lawmaker, Eddie Cross says this proves the country is losing billions in undeclared revenues as civic groups push for more access and accountability within the diamond sector. The government’s reports indicate that far fewer carats have been mined from Marange.
Speaking at a conference organized by the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, Cross said his estimates are conservative, so could be even higher.
“These estimates are supported by information gathered on site and the current installed capacity at the five active mining operations on site,” Cross said.
The Marange diamond fields cover an area of approximately 80,000 hectares and are estimated by geologists to contain two to seven billion carats of raw diamonds, said Cross.
“On this basis, it is one of the largest discoveries of its kind in the world. It has many other unusual characteristics ... the diamonds, although of generally poor quality, contain many very large stones and these have a distinct colour and character,” said Cross.
“We know of one piece sold for $10,6 million in Veitnam, thought to have emanated from Marange.”
Other participants lamented what they claim is a lack of transparency in Marange.
Cross said the diamond fields should be nationalized with the government selecting new investors to mine on the government’s behalf.
Deputy Mines Minister Gift Chimanikire said he could not comment on the figures saying he is not sure of the source, though he said Cross’s report seemed “too exaggerated.”
Conference organizer Vimbai Darikwa of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance said urgent changes are needed in the way diamonds in Marange are being mined and sold with little benefit to the country.