Industrial-grade diamonds dominate Zimbabwe’s gem exports, although sales sharply declined to $188 million in 2013 from nearly $658 million in the previous year due to weakening demand from the United Arab Emirates, China and Belgium as mining companies in Marange scaled down operations, according to trade data.
Figures obtained from the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations, show that exports of the unprocessed gems had been on an upward trend since 2009 before dropping last year.
The country’s diamonds are produced by five mines in the Marange diamond fields to the east of the country, as well as Rio Tinto’s Murowa mine in south central Zimbabwe.
The figures indicate that rough industrial diamonds export to the UAE and China more than halved to $127 million and $30 million, respectively, while the sale of the gems to Belgium also fell to $30 million from $83 million. Malaysia and Mozambique were the country’s new diamond export markets, accounting for a modest $131 000.
The ITC figures, however, also show that exports of unsorted and unworked diamonds amounted to $139 million in 2013, up from $7.8 million previously.
The export of precious stones and metals – mostly gold, diamonds and platinum – raked in $970 million in 2013, down from $1.4 billion the previous year, with South Africa being the major market, according to the trade data.
Marange diamond miners, who have been engaged in open cast operations, last year said they had hit hard rock and that alluvial deposits were thinning out on their allocated concessions. They also said the deep seated conglomerate diamonds were not commercially viable.
Last week, Mbada Diamonds, a joint venture between South Africa’s New Reclamation Group owned Grandwell Holdings and the government’s mining investment vehicle Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, said it was importing new machinery to mine the deep-seated deposits.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe will hold local diamond sales next month after conducting four diamond auctions outside the country; three at the Belgium based Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) as well as in Dubai.
The third sale of diamonds amounting to 500 000 carats, closed in Belgium last month.
The mining sector, now the main driver of the economy accounting for over 60 percent of foreign currency generated is seen registering a negative 1.9 percent growth – after an initial growth projection of 10.7 percent for the year – due to weakening commodity prices.-The Source