Illegal miners invade Zimbabwe's diamond fields


Zimbabwe's controversial Marange diamond fields has been invaded by illegal artisanal miners, a few days after the government ordered mining companies to leave the area.

The government on Monday ordered all companies in the area to cease operations after it took over the concessions.

According to local newspapers on Wednesday, the illegal miners had invaded the mining areas stealing thousands of litres of fuel, mining equipment worth millions of dollars and vital documents.

The illegal panners are back in full swing and they have started panning

The State controlled The Herald newspaper said a ministerial team had been dispatched to assess the situation in the Marange area.

Mines and Mining Development ministry's permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga said the government wanted to establish what was happening following reports of chaos in the area.

"There have been all sorts of reports coming from that area. We have our officers on the ground and by midday tomorrow we will have the reports," he said.

The mining companies say the takeover was not properly organised, hence the disturbances.

"The illegal panners are back in full swing and they have started panning," The Herald reported. "All the mine security details were removed from the mine. The police and officials from the ministry are inadequate to secure the fields."

Only 15 security guards were deployed to secure an area that was guarded by over 120 security personnel at a time. "This is a mess," an official from one of the affected companies was quoted saying.

"Now there is no value for what we built over six years and now it's being destroyed in a day," he added. "They should have at least allowed us to plan, take care of our personnel first, secure the equipment and property and then allow proper hand-over-take over".

The government has created one firm– the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company – to mine the precious mineral after frustrations that the diamond revenues were not trickling into Treasury.

The companies started operations after the government in 2008 carried out a bloody military clampdown to remove the illegal miners from the recently discovered diamond fields.

There was optimism that the diamond mines would lift Zimbabwe from the economic problems of the last decade is fast fizzling out amid reports the companies have already exhausted the alluvial gemstones.


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