‘Diamond output to shatter records’

THE Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company is expected to smash production records as it guns for a three million carat haul this year, driven by US$100 million invested in operations over the last two years.

ZCDC extracted 2,4 million carats between January and October 2018, far higher than the 1,8 million carats achieved last year.

President Mnangagwa indicated in his weekly column in The Sunday Mail recently that diamond output was expected to shatter previous records.

ZCDC chief executive officer Dr Moris Mpofu told The Sunday Mail Business last week they had a “stretch target of three million carats”.

“This is an increase of 54 percent from 1,56 million carats produced in 2017, and 168 percent from 895 000 carats produced over the same period in 2016,” said Dr Mpofu.

As of now, production is 80 percent of its stretch target of three million carats. “Stretch target” refers to a difficult level of success.

ZCDC’s stellar performance came despite a myriad of challenges particularly in the second quarter of 2018 as fuel and foreign currency shortages as well as price hikes took a toll on the national economy.

Dr Mpofu said to circumvent energy challenges, ZCDC was setting up a solar power plant in Marange for its operations.

The diamond miner is tendering for pre-feasibility, and its initial assessment is that the solar plant will be between 15MW and 20MW and cost around US$24 million.

Surrounding schools and clinics will benefit from the solar power plant.

ZCDC has already powered a secondary school and a clinic using solar energy as it moves towards sustainable mining practices.

The company was established in 2016 after Government resolved not to renew operating licences of six diamond miners.

It has since transitioned from an alluvial to a conglomerate-based mining model with an investment of over US$25 million in probably the largest crushing plant Zimbabwe with capacity to crush over 450 tonnes of ore per hour.

ZCDC has invested over US$100 million in exploration, mining, processing, cleaning and valuation.

The State-owned firm’s balance sheet has grown from US$45 million in 2016 to over US$250 million by September 2018.

In its maiden production year, ZCDC mined 961 000 carats from speculative alluvial mining and tailings dumps processing, which was then doubled to 1,8 million carats last year after investing in mobile crushing equipment to enhance conglomerate processing capacity while the fixed 450 tonne per hour plant was being installed.

Last year, Government capitalised the firm to the tune of US$80 million through treasury instruments, resulting in organisational stability, investment in business growth and mining sustainability.

US$20m for DVMC

After the uninterrupted roll-out of its diamond value management initiatives, ZCDC resumed sales in the third quarter of 2018 following test sales at the start of the year.

Dr Mpofu said ZCDC expects to conduct periodic sales after adoption of an approved diamond sales calendar.

The launch of online bidding — the Zimbabwe Electronic Diamond Trading System — last month is part of ZCDC’s investment in downstream diamond value management efficiencies.

Dr Mpofu said ZCDC plans to invest US$20 million in the establishment of a state-of-the-art Diamond Value Management Centre to enhance capacity in cleaning, sorting, valuation, sales and security.

“This will be a high-tech facility that is expected to satisfy all international best practices of effective and efficient diamond value management.

“The DVMC will feature technology such as the fully-integrated sort house which will see the use of hands-free technology to sort diamonds using advanced machines that sort diamonds according to colour, clarity, size and shape or possible cut. The technology will ensure operational efficiency in the downstream processes,” said Dr Mpofu.

ZCDC has also started exploring possible partnerships with other international diamond companies that have well-developed value management technologies.

Vision 2030

As local firms position themselves to contribute towards attainment of an upper middle-income economy by 2030 (Vision 2030), ZCDC plans to invest US$400 million in its operations over the next five years.

Dr Mpofu said 25 percent of the investment would be for exploration and evaluation, as the miner moves to build bankable reserves to ensure investor confidence and better resource mobilisation.

Work is underway at three sites outside Marange where ZCDC is searching for viable kimberlite deposits.

“ZCDC will be conducting aero-magnetic surveys, ground penetrating radar, bulk sampling and other forms of exploration and resource evaluation to discover and evaluate diamonds deposits across the country.

“The company has established a fully-fledged exploration department which it has resourced with skills, drill rigs, mobile processing plants and earth moving equipment required for exploration work,” said Dr Mpofu.

ZCDC targets to be among the top five producers of rough diamonds in the world with targeted production of at least 10 million carats per annum by 2023.

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