By Bernard Chiketo
MUTARE – Alluvial diamond deposits at Marange have run out and companies here have started laying off workers.
Chinese diamond mining companies Anjin and Jinan are this week laying-off more than 400 employees arguing that their claims have run out out of diamonds and have no money to crush the hard rock deeper underground to search for new deposits.
News of the lay-offs has disconcerted trade unionists, who are concerned most of the workers are being retrenched without any packages.
Cosmas Sunguro, the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Workers Union (Zidawu) director, expressed concern that the employees are being tossed out with nothing.
“Anjin and Jinan are going to stop more than 400 workers by 4 July and they have already been given termination notices which said there was no longer diamond,” Sunguro told the Daily News on Sunday.
“We inquired if this was a retrenchment and they said no because they are casual workers.
They casualise our labour in order to take advantage of them and what really disturbs us is that these are big people in government doing this.”
Retired Brigadier General Munyaradzi Machacha, a director with the Chinese-owned Anjin, was unreachable for comment yesterday, but said recently: “The challenge we are facing at the moment is that we are operating at below break-even point.
“Our ore is much deeper to depths of about 40 metres and some of the areas we have had to abandon mining because it was no longer commercially viable.”
The government has a 50 interest in most of the Marange mining operations which include Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Jinan and Kusena.
The quality and quantity of diamonds mined in Marange have reportedly been on the decline since 2012, casting a dark shadow over this sector’s capacity to bail out the country’s ailing economy.
News of alluvial diamond deposits running out officially surfaced last year when Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidakwa visited the diamond fields in December last year. Diamond firms told him they had hit hard rock, leaving them confronted with deep conglomerate gems they said were not commercially viable to extract.
The firms have asked for untapped diamond fields, promising to revert to the current claims once they have secured more efficient technology.
Machacha told Chidakwa they were operating below break-even point and had already started abandoning some areas.
Jinan, on the other hand, was complaining about the quality of the alluvial diamonds left, and also expressed concern that the conglomerate diamonds were not commercially viable to extract and were even of a poorer quality.
Ni Jun, Jinan managing director, said from 2012 to December 2013, they had mined 2,4 million tonnes of diamond ore, with the remaining 1,28 million tonnes which “cannot last at this mine for a long time”.
Liu Jitat, the company’s chief mining operations officer, told Chidakwa that their conglomerate deposits were buried over 30 metres deep and were too thin to be extracted profitably.
“We can see that the current mining area of the embedded depth of the conglomerate is already over 30 metres,” Jitat said. “But unfortunately, the conglomerate thickness is not very good. It is only 0,5 to 0,7 metres. The average grade is about 0,4 to 0,5 carats per tonne.” Daily News