Resources firm RioZim intends to invest up to $25 million to explore and develop its diamond claims in the Sese communal lands in Chivi, Masvingo province.
RioZim, which also owns Murowa Diamond Mine in the Midlands province, owns the Sese claims which cover nearly 3 000 hectares.
The claims have been a source of controversy recently, with reports suggesting that RioZim has been failing to develop them since 2000.
But, RioZim chief executive officer Bheki Nkomo said the company had invested in cutting edge equipment to explore the area.
“We have already started. A team has been deployed to the site, the equipment that we want to use, some of it is in transit but the initial work has already started. The team has gone on the ground,” he said in an interview.
“We are looking at a total requirement of $20 million to $25 million to do the whole thing including where we are actually operating from, because exploration is happening where we are operating from and it is also happening on green fields where we are not operating from and it is also going to happen on brown fields where we have done a bit of drilling and we want to then upgrade the ground to a minable condition.”
On allegations that the company was failing to pay its annual mining levy for the claims to the local council, RioZim argued that the law did not require them to pay a mining levy for claims they were not yet exploiting.
Early predictions suggest that the belt bearing the kimberlitic diamond pipes stretched from the neighbouring Zvishavane area to the Sese area in Chivi.
RioZim said that challenges that led to Rio Tinto exiting the country still exist within the company’s operations and are compromising its ability to lure investments and consolidate its turnaround drive.
The challenges according to Chairman Lovemore include royalties, indigenization and ground ownership issues.
“Rio Tinto pulled out on three issues and these are still there. We came in and the company was bankrupt and technically insolvent and after two and half years we turned around from insolvency to profitability,” he said.
RioZim is into diamond production through its subsidiary Murowa Diamonds, with interests in other minerals too. According to Chihota, the unresolved issues are limiting the group’s expansion.
“We are however happy that government has since engaged us after we submitted our plan and we are hopeful to resolving some differences for the benefit of the country and mining sector as a whole,” he said.
Nkomo said the company was marketing its diamonds through Botswana and had a tripartite agreement with Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), RioZim and Murowa Diamonds.
“In terms of marketing our diamonds, the route involves MMCZ through an agreement with Rio. With Botswana, the matter has not been discussed and we operate through a contractual agreement on basis of the three parties,” he said.
He said the company was also open to assist the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC)’s diamonds to be marketed through Murowa.