Diamonds in Marange were discovered by De Beers Zimbabwe in 2002 and not by African Consolidated Resources in 2006 as is now widely reported.
This was disclosed to The Insider two years ago in a face-to-face interview with De Beers’s spokesman Tom Tweedy.
Tweedy said De Beers Zimbabwe, also known as DebZim, and in some cases referred to as Kimberlite Searches, started prospecting in the area in 2001 and discovered the alluvial diamonds in 2002 but the company did not exploit the diamonds because it was not interested in alluvial diamonds but in kimberlites.
“The highly unusual nature of this deposit (geologically) together with the presence of these alluvial diamonds in the Exclusive Prospecting Order 1523 suggested that it would be prudent to understand the deposit geologically and investigate possible sources of these diamonds with reference to DEBZIM’s prospecting activities for kimberlites (not alluvial) in this EPO,” Tweedy said.
Tweedy explained to The Insider at length how diamonds are formed.
Natural diamonds are formed at high-pressure high-temperature conditions existing at depths of 140 to 190 kilometres in the earth mantle. Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source, and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years. Diamonds are brought close to the earth surface through deep volcanic eruptions by a magma which cools into igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites.
Once diamonds have been transported to the surface by magma in a volcanic pipe, they may erode out and be distributed over a large area. A volcanic pipe containing diamonds is known as a primary source of diamonds.
Secondary sources of diamonds include all areas where a significant number of diamonds have been eroded out of their kimberlite or lamproite matrix, and accumulated because of water or wind action. These include alluvial deposits and deposits along existing and ancient shorelines, where loose diamonds tend to accumulate because of their size and density.
De Beers said it was interested in the primary source of the Marange diamonds.
The Insider’s interest in De Beers had been sparked by a discovery that ACR had employed a former De Beers geologist, Archibold Patsanza, six months before going to Marange to peg the claims after the De Beers EPO expired. De Beers’ EPO expired in March 2006 but it applied for a one-year extension.
Although ACR only announced the discovery in September 2006, De Beers whose EPO had been extended pulled out in July 2006 after hearing that a new company had entered into the area and there was a diamond rush. Tweedy said they pulled out because the illegal mining was linked to De Beers.
Tweedy said after surrendering the EPO, “the government put a reservation on the area and the ground reverted to the government. That was the end of DEBZIM’s involvement with the EPO. DEBZIM would like to state that [it] has never mined or bulk sampled this deposit, and no illegal diamond digging took place whilst DEBZIM was actively managing this ground.”
A story by The Standard of 23 July 2006, however, seems to contradict this. The paper reported that there was an illegal diamond rush in Marange and quoted villagers as claiming that De Beers had been mining diamonds in the area and illegally exporting them.
In response to the article, Dr Martin Roberts, the Exploration Manager for Debzim said that De Beers was not involved in any mining but it was aware of diamond deposits in the area.
“Debzim is aware of a small diamond deposit at Marange, which Debzim considers to be of no commercial interest to Debzim due to the limited size of the deposit and its poor grade. We understand that in April 2006, prior to the current activity in the Marange area, mining claims were granted to another company and we wish to state categorically that no diamond digging took place whilst Debzim was actively managing this ground.”
The government this week said it is going to investigate the operations of De Beers in Marange. Apparently, De Beers discovered a lot of diamonds in Zimbabwe starting at what is now River Ranch in Beitbridge but it never “mined” the diamonds. It also made several finds in the Lowveld some of which have now been claimed by ACR or its subsidiaries.
Below is Roberts’ letter to The Standard published on 30 July 2006, which also seems to contradict some of the facts mentioned by Tweedy.
DEBZIM (De Beers Prospecting Zimbabwe Limited) wishes to state the following in response to an article by Deborah-Fay Ndlovu in The Standard Newspaper of Zimbabwe (23rd July, 2006), which makes some factually incorrect assumptions.
To state clearly for the record, Debzim has no mining operation anywhere in Zimbabwe and is not involved in the mining or export of diamonds from the Marange district, as alleged by your newspaper, or for that matter from any other area in Zimbabwe.
Debzim is a Zimbabwe registered diamond exploration company that has carried out exploration in eastern Zimbabwe since the mid -1990’s. Debzim has over the past two years relinquished all of the exploration prospecting orders (EPO’s) granted to it in this area and its exploration findings have been reported to the relevant authorities.
Debzim is aware of a small diamond deposit at Marange, which Debzim considers to be of no commercial interest to Debzim due to the limited size of the deposit and its poor grade. We understand that in April 2006, prior to the current activity in the Marange area, mining claims were granted to another company and we wish to state categorically that no diamond digging took place whilst Debzim was actively managing this ground.
The De Beers Group of Companies (De Beers) is one of the primary initiators of, and contributors to, the Kimberley Process; a worldwide diamond industry initiative to protect diamonds from those who seek to use them to fund civil war.
The Kimberley Process (KP) includes in its governance structures governments, international organisations, and civil society bodies such as diamond trade organisations and NGO’s.
The KP has been successful in bringing into the legitimate channels of trade 99.8% (two tenths of one percent of diamonds still remain questionable) of the diamonds traded in the world and for this success De Beers stands proudly alongside the world’s leading governments and companies engaged in producing, cutting and trading diamonds.
We are not aware of any other industry that has sought to certify its product in such a way. We take seriously the role and responsibilities with regard to this membership.
Any reports suggesting that De Beers is involved (directly or indirectly) in mining and/or exporting of diamonds in Zimbabwe are incorrect. Debzim (De Beers Prospecting Zimbabwe Limited) based in Bulawayo, is registered in terms of the Companies Act of Zimbabwe and is listed in the telephone directory.
Dr Martin Roberts
De Beers Zimbabwe Prospecting Ltd.