The vast expanse of land, covering 120 hectares was invaded by illegal panners during the diamond rush of 2006 in search of the gems. Over 40 000 local and foreign panners invaded Chiadzwa to mine diamonds illegally.
Government responded by dispatching security forces, who human rights organisations accuse of killing civilians during the clean-up campaign to drive out the panners.
Today, there is serious work at the fields, with companies having invested heavily in technology to mine diamonds.
All the companies are upbeat.
Anjin said it had invested US$310 million so far; Marange said it had the best in terms of human capital; Mbada is on an expansion programme while Diamond Mining Corporation (DMC) is confident of getting certification from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).
Five companies — Marange Resources, Mbada, Anjin Investments, DMC and Sino-Zim — hold concessions in the rich Chiadzwa fields.
Marange is wholly-owned by Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC); Mbada is a joint venture between ZMDC and South African’s Grandwell Holdings.
Anjin is a 50-50 joint venture between ZMDC and a Chinese firm, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company.
DMC is a 50-50 joint venture between ZMDC and Dubai’s Pure Diam. Sino-Zim has been taken over by ZMDC after the Chinese moved out saying its concessions had little diamond deposits and it was untenable to continue mining the resource.
Other than mining diamonds, producers are also working on land rehabilitation and recycling water used in mining.
Such has been the thrust on security that more than a third of the staff compliment at the mines ensures that the diamonds are secure, a requirement under the KPCS.
Marange Resources mines manager Munashe Shava said the company “prides itself in human capital and has one of the best brains in the industry”.
Such is the high security at the fields that visitors were not allowed to pick up anything including something they would have dropped during the tour.
“If your pen falls down ask one of the host security guys to pick it up for you. If you see people bending, they do it in a specific way,” Shava said.
During the tour of the Diamond Mining Corporation, one journalist dropped his pen and alerted the security. The security detail bent down in a particular fashion picked up the pen and showed it towards one of the cameras on the mines.
Some of the surveillance cameras are visible and planted on the walls and baobab trees. Others are invisible.
There are electric and alarmed security fences, flood lights and close-circuit television, searches, routine and random — all designed to stop the leakages of the diamonds and ward off illegal miners.
Yet despite prevalence of the high-tech security, “daring” panners are unfazed.
Anjin director Munyaradzi Machacha told journalists that they apprehend an average of five illegal panners per week.
“This was an area which was a total disaster. It was donga watonga (it was free for all),” he said.
The output at the four operating mines ranges between 75 and 200 tonnes per hour through the dense medium separation, a technology used to recover diamond indicator minerals from prospecting samples.
The producers are working on expanding its capacities.
Diamonds have been identified as the new saviour for the country’s economy in the absence of lines of credit needed to kick-start the economy.
This year, ZMDC remitted a dividend of US$140 million to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, more than double last year’s contribution.
In the 2012 budget, revenue from diamonds is set to contribute US$600 million to the fiscus.