Zim’s Mbada Diamonds to switch to underground mining

Mbada Diamonds, working in Zimbabwe's eastern Marange fields, will switch to underground mining from surface digging, escalating investment in the region that campaigners say has helped fund political oppression.

Mbada, in a 50:50 joint venture with state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development, will "invest heavily in conglomerate and kimberlitic" mining, the company said on Tuesday in a statement handed to reporters in the capital, Harare. "The new phase of mining will require extensive capital, which is the company's primary objective" this year, the diamond explorer said.

Conglomerate and kimberlitic diamonds are found deep below the earth, compared with alluvial stones on or just beneath the surface. Mbada didn't say whether it had identified deposits.

The company, the largest diamond mining employer with 1 700 staff, said on March 11 that its annual sales have exceeded $1-billion after four years in operation. It also says it paid $424-million in taxes, dividends, and government advances last year.

Chief executive Robert Mhlanga previously declined to give details on who owns the Zimbabwe-registered company, while its website also lacks information on ownership.

Global Witness, a campaign group based in London, says gems from Marange have been used to fund political oppression in Zimbabwe, particularly during the 2008 election campaign when about 200 people died. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front denies the claims, citing the European Union's lifting of sanctions on diamond exports in October.

Mbada mines the Marange fields alongside Anjin Investments, the Diamond Mining Company, Gye Nyame, Jinan Mining, Kusena and Marange Resources, all in joint ventures with Zimbabwe Mining. – Bloomberg

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