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Illegal diamond miners get craftier

DARING illegal diamond miners operating in cahoots with senior security personnel are allegedly finding their way into the Chiadzwa diamond fields resplendent in Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) uniforms.

This is usually being done during the ore blasting process and the panners make off with various amounts of ore as well as pieces of real diamonds from the premises.

Widely referred to as magweja, illegal diamond panners have always been a menace at Chiadzwa.

They are one of the major diamond leakage channels.

Even though their numbers have significantly decreased when compared to the free-for-all 2006 to 2008 diamond rush era, the drones, armed security guards, CCTV and security fences that came with organised mining seem to be failing to keep illegal panners and smugglers completely off the Marange diamond fields.

Investigations conducted revealed that illegal diamond panners usually gain access to the diamond fields during the ore blasting procedure.

Blasting involves detonating mining explosives to produce high-intensity shock waves and large volumes of gas which create cracks to break the rock.

Since the process also breaks diamond ore into smaller sizes, at times leaving the actual diamond in the open for easy extraction, the blasting is only done after full security measures have been put in place around the area.

During this process, some unscrupulous senior security personnel leave some areas unguarded to create room for illegal panners.

The blasting process, which is normally done once or twice a month, lasts for an average of 30 minutes.

Soon after detonation, the illegal diamond panners flood the mining field in a heist movie fashion.

As they do so, they will all be dressed in ZCDC gear to mislead CCTV operators into thinking that they are not intruders.

A security supervisor is facing internal disciplinary action for his alleged involvement in this grand diamond theft scam.

When contacted for comment, ZCDC spokesperson, Mr Sugar Chagonda said if investigations confirm that such thefts are taking place at the diamond fields, due processes will be followed, even if it means parting ways with some employees.

He said the diamond mining company was concerned with issues relating to product security.

“We are working with the community to ensure that we solve this challenge of illegal diamond panning. As a company, we are deeply concerned with issues relating to product security.

“We need to ensure that product security is enhanced. In cases where we suspect or we gather evidence that there is connivance between illegal panners and our staff, due processes are followed. We are not compromised when it comes to product security,” he said.

Mr Chagonda could however, not be drawn into confirming or denying that a senior security employee was embroiled in disciplinary procedures due to his involvement in the diamond theft scam.

“All I can tell you is that we are very serious about security issues and any issue that may arise will be dealt with accordingly.

“Even if it means firing a big number of employees, the company will not hesitate to do that in the interest of product security.

“This is also done irrespective of the office they occupy. Unfortunately I cannot delve into personal cases of employees in the media,” Mr Chagonda said. Manica Post

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