Russians eye Zim diamonds

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HARARE – Russian firm ALROSA is planning to establish diamond mining operations in Zimbabwe.

The group — one of the largest diamond miners in the world, producing 34,4 million carats in 2012 and sales totalling $4,61 billion — said it has approved creation of joint ventures for geological prospecting in the gem-rich southern African nation.

Its international affairs committee recently published a report stating that Botswana, the second largest diamond producer after Russia, and Zimbabwe were priority targets for expanding business.

“ALROSA is pursuing a more cautious approach while choosing a project in this country (Zimbabwe),” the group said, adding that “this summer Zimbabwe will have presidential elections that could dramatically change the political situation.”

This comes as Chinese company Nan Jiang Africa Resources, the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai Diamond Exchange and a host of Indian as well as Israeli firms have expressed an interest in partnering local companies in diamond mining.

Diamond mining in Zimbabwe, which was mostly confined to central and southern parts of the country and expanded to the eastern district of Marange after the discovery of alluvial diamonds since 2006, has attracted international attention due to the gems’ lucrativeness.

The country — currently producing  approximately  8,5 million diamond carats per year — is believed to hold reserves enough to supply 25 percent of the world’s diamonds.

Although an aeromagnetic survey of the country’s diamond-rich Marange area revealed anomalies with huge potential in green field diamond exploration, some analysts are of the opinion that the alluvial diamonds in the area will not be easily found on the surface in five years as is the case at the moment.

This means that companies operating in the area will have to go deeper, which is however, capital intensive.

That will reduce output, which World Bank said could reach 15,2 million carats a year by 2018.

ALROSA believes its technology will help Zimbabwe find more diamond deposits not only in Manicaland but across the country.

John Teeling, ALROSA’s executive chairperson said the Russians’ technology and computer programes can refine data that is available from geophysics and geochem.

Since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009 there has been an investor rush into Zimbabwe – which previously struggled to attract investors to its mining industry, despite mineral wealth that includes what could be some of the world’s richest diamond mines.

Deputy Mines minister Gift Chimanikire could not be reached for comment as his phone was unreacheable.

Earlier this year, Angola’s Catoca, one of the world’s largest diamond producers, indicated that it could invest in diamond exploration and production in Zimbabwe.

“We analysed Zimbabwe’s diamond potential with the Zimbabwean authorities and we are sure this is a market worth investing in…Catoca can invest in exploring and mining diamonds,” said Angola’s Mines minister Francisco Queiroz.

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