Russian diamond giant sets up subsidiary in Zimbabwe

A replica of the Imperial Crown of Russia, also known as the Great Imperial Crown, is on display at an office of Russian diamond producer Alrosa in Moscow, Russia January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russian diamond giant Alrosa said on Monday that it had set up a subsidiary in Zimbabwe to begin mining operations there, more than two years after it shelved plans to expand into the country.

A replica of the Imperial Crown of Russia, also known as the Great Imperial Crown, is on display at an office of Russian diamond producer Alrosa in Moscow, Russia January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond producer by output, started conducting geological exploration in Zimbabwe in 2013 but dropped the licences it held there in 2016 due to a reform of the country’s diamond industry.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa told reporters that his country had opened “a small window” for foreign companies to participate in its diamond industry to maximise exploration, but did not give further details. He spoke when visiting one of Alrosa’s operations in Moscow.

The state-controlled Alrosa said it would develop new mining operations in the country with the support of the Zimbabwean government.

Alrosa established a subsidiary in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare last December, and its geologists and mining engineers are due to arrive in the country to start operations in February.

“I would like to once again thank the president of Zimbabwe as we met in April 2018 and half a year later, on December 6, Alrosa already opened an office in Zimbabwe and it was registered. Now we will bring in staff, the respective experts will go there to examine the geological data,” said Alrosa Chief Executive Sergey Ivanov.

” We are ready to share all the technologies which Alrosa company possesses in the aspects of diamond selection and preparation for sale and any other know-how that we have to allow Zimbabwe to occupy the position which the country occupied several years ago on the global diamond market,” he added.

Alrosa’s main production assets are based in Russia, but the company also has operations in Angola.

Russia has been raising its profile across Africa in recent years, signing military cooperation deals, ramping up trade and looking at joint platinum projects in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has held a series of conferences in Africa as well as in London since the ouster of long-term leader Robert Mugabe in late 2017, raising expectations the mineral-rich southern African country would become more investor-friendly.

Mnangagwa’s visit to Russia is happening while protesters barricaded roads and burnt tyres in Harare on Monday, two days after he raised the price of fuel by 140% in response to the worst economic crisis in a decade.

“We believe we can make a significant contribution to the world diamond industry. Myself and my delegation are very happy to have been invited by this organisation (Alrosa) which has exposed to us the state-of-the-art technology in the field of diamond industry,” Mnangagwa said.