DTZ-OZGEO, a joint venture between a Russian company OZGEO and a Zimbabwe firm, Development Trust of Zimbabwe, recently discovered diamond deposits in Chimanimani district. The Standard News Editor Caiphas Chimhete (CC) recently spoke with DTZ-OZGEO director Ismail Shillaev (IS) (pictured right) about the company’s diamond mining operations, the size of the deposits and other issues. Below are excerpts of the talk.
CC: When did DTZ – OZGEO start diamond mining operations in Chimanimani district?
IS: In 2007 there was a gold rush in Taka Forest and after the rush, we applied for a Special Grants for gold mining in the Charleswood Farm that was granted the same year. Early 2008 within our special grant, our geologist discovered diamond-bearing stones and in October 2008 we applied for addition of diamonds on our Special Grant which was granted. In April 2011, we installed a pilot plant and commenced comprehensive exploration in our Special Grant.
CC: How much diamonds are you extracting per month and of what value?
IS: From June last year we have been producing on average 250 carats per month which has improved and as of June this year, we have reached a 1 000 carat mark per month. The highest price achieved on the market for our diamonds has been US$120 per carat.
CC: How big are diamond deposits in Chimanimani and the area you are mining?
IS: We are still in the exploration phase meant to determine the available resources and will be able to quantify the size of the deposits when we are through. The preliminary results of first stages have shown deposits of about 80 000 carats.
For the pilot mining we are currently doing, we occupy an area of 3km perimetre.
CC: There have been reports that diamonds found in Chimanimani are of much better quality than those found in Chiadzwa and Marange. Can you please explain this? Are they not in the same geological vein?
IS: The diamonds in our concession are of better quality, but they are small in size and of low concentration as compared to the Chiadzwa diamond area. We have a different geological structure and different mineral age as compared to the Chiadzwa area. Our geological structure is of the upper layers of the Umkondo stratigraphy, unlike the Chiadzwa that lie above a granite.
CC: There have been reports that your company was allegedly smuggling diamonds from Chimanimani to Mozambique. Can you please respond to these allegations?
IS: DTZ-OZGEO has Kimberley Process Certification (KPC) which it obtained after complying with minimum requirements. We safeguard this certification and we would not like to lose it. Having said this, we will not do anything to have it cancelled. In short, we have put all security systems in place to make sure there are no leakages within the system and we work on a day-to-day basis with ZRP Minerals Unit whose interest is to ensure there are no leakages of the precious stones.
CC: What other security measures have you put in place to avoid diamond leakages at the diamond fields in Chimanimani?
IS: Unfortunately, for security reasons I cannot disclose the security measures in place, but can only confirm we have high security in place commensurate with the mineral we are mining and KPC requirements.
CC: Your mining operations in Chimanimani are said to have displaced a number of families that were resettled there a few years ago. What sort of help have you given the affected families?
IS: I would like to say we have not yet displaced many families at the moment, as we are at the exploration stage with a pilot plant in place. Only one family has been affected to date and we have built the family a state-of-the-art home a few kilometres from our concession on the land allocated by the Lands ministry. When we expand the project we expect about 15 families to be affected by our operation and we have already engaged the Lands ministry to allocate us land where we will build state-of-the-art houses for the affected families.
CC: What sort of social responsibility, if any, have you carried out in the community in which you operate?
IS: DTZ-OZGEO found it appropriate to support such a worthy cause of educating Zimbabweans, as we also need an educated workforce. In Chimanimani, as we conclude exploration of diamonds in the area, we have found it appropriate to plough back to the community through education. We have donated 31 pupil desks to Charleswood School. We have also provided materials for construction of a block of toilets.
We have maintained the road from Chimanimani to Chikukwa and other various roads around Chimanimani through assistance given to District Development Fund. We have made it a company recruitment policy to recruit within the communities we operate from where skills available match requirements. To date we employ more than 400 from Penhalonga and Chimanimani where we are mining.
CC: What impediments do you face as a mining company in the country?
IS: Just to mention a few, we have power challenges as we are affected by load-shedding by Zesa; have working capital challenges especially at the moment as we move from the exploration phase and prepare on project expansion. The changing regulations have not spared us either.
CC: Your company has also been accused of polluting Mutare River in Penhalonga where you are involved in alluvial gold extraction. What measures have you put in place to avoid siltation of the river and destruction of the ecosystem?
IS: There has been a fair share of reports in different media, both local and international, on this subject, with specific allegations on water pollution in Mutare River.
There are no reactants or chemical additives used in the production pipeline. The concentration processes are carried out only using clear water. Water supplies for processing are conducted according to the closed reverse scheme where the regenerated water returns to production pipeline (recycling). Technical water supply is not connected in any way with the Mutare River or Haruna River in Chimanimani or other natural water sources.
CC: As one drives past your operations in Penhalonga, there is massive land degradation taking place. What are your plans in terms of land rehabilitation?
IS: Environment protection and land rehabilitation takes centre stage in our operations and our promise to communities where we operate from is to restore environment to its original state, if not improved. Rehabilitation and restoration of the soil surface is conducted in accordance with developed plan of rehabilitation works. For the execution of the rehabilitation plan, the company has employed the help of an ecology specialist who works in conjunction with State organs such as Agritex to design befitting reclamation plans.