Second Zimbabwe Diamond Conference Ended

ZDCHarare: The Second Zimbabwe Diamond Conference ended on November 7 with a vigorous panel debate on the issue of beneficiation as the engine of growth for the country’s diamond industry. The panel included Mr. Richard Mvududu, Chair of the Diamond Beneficiation Association of Zimbabwe, Mr. Tafadzwa Musarara from Resources Exploitation Watch, Mr. Shamiso Mtisi, KP Civil Society Coalition Representative in Zimbabwe, and Mr. Mark Mabhudhu, Managing Director of Marange Resources.

The panel members presented their views on the best way for Zimbabwe to bring the maximum benefit to the people of the country. They agreed that it was critical for Zimbabwe to develop from being simply a diamond producer. This includes the need to establish diamond polishing facilities and, later on, jewelry manufacturing plants. Audience members also took part in the discussion.

The focus of the conference, organized by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, in the capital, Harare, was on ‘Completing Zimbabwe’s Diamond Potential for the Future’. It aimed to present the progress made by the country’s diamond trade following its admission as a member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2011. The inaugural Zimbabwe Diamond Conference took place at Victoria Falls in November, 2012.

The conference was attended by African mining ministers, and hosted by Zimbabwe’s Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Mr. Walter K. Chidakwa, who addressed the conference on behalf of the Zimbabwean government. The conference was officially opened by President Robert Mugabe on November 6.

The second day of the conference was opened with a speech by Mr. David Murangira, Chairman of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC). He gave a brief review of the history of the company and of diamond mining in the country. He warned that alluvial diamonds, such as those in the Marange area, were finite. “What happens after the alluvial deposits run out? We must have new deposits to sustain mining in the future.” He said it was critical to bring in investors to carry out widespread an in-depth kimberlite searches.

World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) President Ernie Blom, speaking “as a neighbor and a fellow African” said that Africa produced two-thirds of the world’s diamond output. “Colonial powers exploited Africa for a long time, but now the continent is taking control of its destiny. The wealth generated must be used in Africa, by its countries and for its peoples. There are vast opportunities to reduce poverty and create jobs and infrastructure.”

Johan Erikson, Managing Director of First Element, told delegates about the open and transparent tender system the company has created for the sale of Marange diamonds in Harare. “There were an unbelievable number of people at the tender; they loved the diamonds and they loved the fact that it was taking place in Zimbabwe following the sales in Antwerp and Dubai. The feedback from bidders and buyers was great. They did not know what to expect, but they told us afterwards that the people were friendly and it was safe. It was an 11-day tender and 133 companies attended.

“First Element has committed to working in Zimambwe for two years, passing on skills and knowledge relating to diamond polishing and auctions. We need international buyers to buy your diamonds and for the money rose to stay here. Tenders have many advantages: they are transparent; there are many buyers, and strong competition leading to higher prices. We believe that Zimambwe will remain an important industry player in the future. We also believe there is the potential for a second or third Marange-type diamond deposit,” he added.

The conference also heard from Mr. Alex Popov, the Chairman of the World Diamond Mark Foundation; Mr Ramzi Malik, Executive Director of Diamond Mining Corporation; Mr. Mark Mabhudhu, Managing Director of Marange Resources; Mr. Munyaradzi Machacha, Director of Anjin Investments Ltd.

The conference was closed by Minister of Mines and Mining Development of Zimbabwe, Walter K. Chidakwa, who said he hoped the next conference in two years’ time would be able to review great progress made following the comments and advice heard at the gathering. “We must back the ideas that we have heard with financing. If we let others do it, then the diamond industry in Zimbabwe will have a different shape. We have a lot to learn from our neighbors in Botswana and South Africa, and we must work together to foster relationships. It would have been a purely African conference if not for the participation of international delegates, and we are happy that they were here.”

Among the other leaders of international diamond industry organizations pledged their assistance in supporting Zimbabwe in exploiting its diamonds for the benefit of its citizens were Mr. Eli Izhakoff, Honorary President of the World Diamond Council (WDC), the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) and of CIBJO; Mr. Gaetano Cavalieri, President of CIBJO; H.E. Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority; and Ari Epstein, CEO of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre.