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Harare Agency Now Controls Diamond Mine - Chinese Seen In Wings

The Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation has received a license to exploit the Marange diamond concession following revocation of a license held by British-based African Consolidated Resources by Minister of Mines Amos Midzi.

But Mines Ministry sources said the ZMDC does not have the capacity to operate the mine, and that the takeover by the government could be a step towards awarding the alluvial diamond claim to Chinese investors. Such a move would be in keeping with President Robert Mugabe’s “Look East” economic policy, and could be attractive to the strapped Harare government in terms of the potential for a cash infusion.

For the past 10 years the Mining Development Corporation has had to close or offload loss-making mines due to mismanagement, experts said, among them Kamativi Mine, closed down in 1994, Sabi Gold Mine, shut in 2000 and Madziwa Nickel Mine.

Given a mandate to revive closed mines last year, the ZMDC has also failed dismally there. Projects earmarked for revival included Mhangura Copper Mines, Lomagundi Smelting and Mining and Sanyati Copper Mines, where a geological study indicated large ore deposits. But mining experts say ZMDC lacks resources and know-how.

The agency, in association with Zimbabwe Defence Industries, or ZDI, also entered a joint venture with Norinco to develop chromium deposits on its claims in Ngezi, but the deals have failed to materialized. The discovery of diamonds in Marange sparked a rush by indigent peasants into the area, leading the army and police to seal it off.

The Marange diamond mine has come under investigation by the Kimberly Process following reports that some of its output was being smuggled into South Africa.

Chief Executive Officer Andrew Cranswick of African Consolidated Resources, which asserts a legal claim to the Marange mine, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that if it cannot regain access through negotiations it will file suit.

Director Godfrey Kanyenze of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute studied the operations of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and told reporter Zulu that he found gross mismanagement at the agency.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...