Chilonga’s real treasure is underground

Chiredzi- FOR decades, various mineral exploration expeditions have been undertaken in the Lowveld by different companies, in a vast area encompassing Chiredzi and under which Chilonga falls.

NYASHA CHINGONO
In 2019, the ministry of Mines and Mining Development, through the local firm Aero Surv in partnership with Xcalibur Airborne Geophysics of South Africa, conducted an aeromagnetic survey which discovered vast deposits of diamonds and gold in Chiredzi and Mwenezi areas. 

Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando was upbeat that the survey would lead to a discovery which could contribute towards plans to develop a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023. 

“In terms of the development of the diamond industry last year we produced 2.8 million carats and the whole idea is for this to go up to at least 10 million carats by the year 2023 I said at least (10 million) because that projection is based on geologically proven sites and, with the exploration, which is now taking place, who knows what can happen?” Chitando said.

“This event is important in the sense that exploration activities of this nature would enable us to improve our diamond production beyond the 10 million carats.”

Another kimberlite pipe search survey was done by Sandvic, which identified 120 kimberlite pipes in different parts of the country, including the Chilonga area. A top-secret report was produced and submitted to the government, including the President’s Office. 

However, out of the 120 kimberlite pipes, only four are said to be diamondiferous.

A survey by leading South African diamond mining giant De Beers in the 1950s revealed deposits of kimberlite diamonds and gold in the Chilonga area.

However,  a De Beers survey conducted between 1994 and 1999 concluded that the findings were disappointing. 

Only recently, diamonds were discovered by Russian company Alrossa in the Chiredzi’s neighbouring district, Beitbridge. The diamond kimberlite pipe in the Lowveld extends from Chiredzi down to Beitbridge – the Malipati zone.

This area is just  over 240km south of Chilonga, which has been the theatre of a raging controversy as the government was pushing for the eviction of 12 500 villagers to make way for Dendairy’s lucerne grass project. 

Last week, the government reversed Statutory Instrument (SI) 50 of 2021, setting aside the eviction of Chilonga people, who could still be in danger of eviction due to vast mineral wealth discovered along the Lowveld belt. 

The belt further extends to Maitengwe area in Bulilima district, in Matabeleland South.

The world’s largest diamond producer, Alrosa, has begun preliminary exploration at Bubi in Beitbridge East where it has discovered diamonds.

Down in Beitbridge West there was River Ranch Diamond Mine, not far across the Limpopo River border from South Africa’s Venetia Diamond Mine, the country’s largest diamond operation. Alrosa Zimbabwe Limited, jointly owned by Alrosa and Zimbabwe’s state-owned diamond mining company, Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), are working on the project.

Alrosa, which accounts for almost a third of the world’s rough diamond production, has 70% in Alrosa Zim, with 30% owned by ZCDC.

Announcing the results of the diamond survey in June last year, minister of state for Masvingo Ezra Chadzamira said huge diamond deposits were discovered around the Chingwizi area of Mwenezi, while gold was found in northern Chikombedzi following the aeromagnetic survey commissioned by the government.

“Huge diamond deposits were discovered around the Chingwizi area in Mwenezi, while gold was found in northern Chikombedzi following an aeromagnetic survey commissioned by the government,” Chadzamira said.

“The ministry of Mines will outline the next course of action after this discovery, but we are excited as a province because this will help grow our provincial Gross Domestic Product and also help the nation achieve its target to make mining a US$12 billion industry by 2023.”

In the 1990s, South African mining giant De Beers conducted an exploration which found kimberlite along the belt through an exclusive prospecting order (EPO) 858. 

EPO 858 (Rutenga) is located in the Masvingo Mining District and lies approximately halfway between Beitbridge and Masvingo towns and shares a common boundary with EPO 869 (Mwenezi) to the southwest. The tenement is straddled by the main Beitbridge to Masvingo road that runs northwest southwest. 

The EPO 858 discovered the Triangle 04 kimberlite.

“The heavy mineral anomalies over the follow-up blocks 858/1/A, 858/1/B, 858/1/C and 858/1/D were further investigated by trenching. This resulted in the discovery of a kimberlite, later named Triangle 04 kimberlite. This kimberlite is a dyke of about 25m along strike and about 10m wide.

“The kimberlite is weathered to a depth of 4m beyond which relatively fresh material could easily be salvaged. Triangle 04 body is currently protected by claims,” reads the EPO 858 report. 
However, the results were generally disappointing,  according to De Beers EPO 858 reconnaissance results seen by The NewsHawks. 

“Reconnaissance results and detailed follow-up results for EPO 858 were generally disappointing. The targets generated a reconnaissance were followed up by detailed 300m and 50m interval grid sampling as outlined above. No new potential prospecting targets were generated from this follow-up. From the amount of heavy mineral sampling conducted over the northwestern portion of the tenement around which the Triangle 04 kimberlite was discovered, it is fair to conclude that very small kimberlites occurrences, possibly dykes exist on that ground. Any reasonably large kimberlites should have been constrained at the 300m and 50m heavy mineral sampling. Kimberlitic Searched Limited therefore decided to drop this ground and divert resources elsewhere,” reads the EPO 858.

However, the scouting of minerals in the area continues as witnessed by the government’s renewed interest in the area following the Chilonga debacle.

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