The Marange diamond deposit, spanning over 300 miles in Eastern Zimbabwe, was stated as the largest diamond mine in the world in 2013 producing almost 17 million carats or approximately 13% of global supply.
The diamond field is controlled by Zimbabwe government affiliate Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which has partnership agreements with 7 private entities most of which are speculated to have ties with Zimbabwe ex-military and political officials.
After only 5 years of alluvial diamond production, the easily-minable surface resource at Marange has been rapidly depleted. Beneath the easily-minable loose surface ore, the presence of diamonds continues, but lies in solid conglomerate rock. Mining of the conglomerate rock appears to be uneconomic as it was reported this week that two of the seven miners at Marange, Anjin and Jinan, will be shutting down due to resource exhaustion. On June 30th, Zimbabwe’s SW Radio Africa, reported that the two companies will layoff 400 workers this week.
Anjin Investments Ltd is a private company joint owned by Matt Bronze Ltd, a company that is principally controlled by Zimbabwe senior ranking military official Charles Tarumbwa and Chinese-based Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group.
Jinan Mining Ltd is a privately-held Chinese-based company.
In September 2013 Belgian and diamond industry officials successfully lobbied the European Union to lift sanctions on Marange diamonds, which allowed for the diamonds to be legally sold in Antwerp, the global diamond hub, for the first time.
In March of this year, 380,000 carats Marange diamonds sold in Antwerp for $76 per carat. In February, 950,000 carats sold for an average price of $73/carat. Prior to lifting of sanctions, Marange diamonds were only selling for $33/carat primarily in China, India, and UAE.
The importation of Marange diamonds into the U.S. remains illegal due to on-going human right abuses and a history of civil violence tied to the diamonds.
The five remaining miners in Marange after Anjin and Jinan shutter will be Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Gye Nyame Respources, and Kusena Diamonds.
While its difficult to estimate Marange production for 2014, its likely that output will be significantly lower than the 16.9 million carats produced in 2013. In 2012 Marange produced 12 million carats; in 2011 8.7 million carats; in 2010 8.7 million carats; in 2009 800,000 carats; and in 2008 600,000 carats.
Today the largest diamond mine in the world is Botswana’s Orapa mine estimated to produce 13 million carats this year. Orapa is jointly owned by De Beers and the government of Botswana.
About the Author:
Paul Zimnisky has worked in the financial industry for over 10 years as an arbitrage trader, equity analyst, and Exchange Traded Fund creator and developer. Paul closely follows the global financial markets, gold, diamonds, and the U.S. energy industry. Paul has been interviewed and quoted by numerous financial media outlets including Bloomberg TV, Fox Business News, the Economist, Barron’s, Forbes, and Investors Business Daily. Paul graduated from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business with a B.S. in Finance. Paul can be reached at PaulZimnisky@gmail.com.