The Murowa Diamond Mine is located near Zvishavane in south-central Zimbabwe. Production from Murowa began in 2004 with a current capability of around 400,000 carats per annum of large, predominantly white, gem-quality diamonds. The owner of the mine, Murowa Diamonds Private Limited, is incorporated in Zimbabwe. Rio Tinto plc has a 78 per cent interest in the company, with the remaining 22 per cent interest owned by Riozim Limited, an independent Zimbabwean owned and listed company.

Mining and processing

The Murowa mine comprises three kimberlite pipes that were discovered in 1997. Two of the three kimberlite pipes are of an economically exploitable size. A truck and shovel method is used to extract ore from the two open pipes, which is then crushed, processed and pumped to the final recovery plant. The resource has the potential to be expanded to six to seven times its current production level. A review of the feasibility study for this expansion is currently under way, as are discussions with the Zimbabwean government on the required investment environment to support a project of this magnitude.

Sales and marketing

Rio Tinto Diamonds' sales and marketing team in Antwerp, Belgium sorts and sells the predominantly white diamonds from the Murowa mine to an international customer base. The demand for Murowa’s products has remained strong due to its high proportion of gem-quality diamonds.

Sustainable development

Murowa Diamonds operates in a remote region of Zimbabwe where an arid climate and traditional lifestyles have created challenging socio-economic conditions for local communities. Murowa works consultatively with local communities via its five-year Communities Action Plan, creating opportunities for these communities to extend their careers, businesses and livelihoods. At the same time, it respects the traditional and cultural values of the community and, wherever possible, tries to operate in ways that will minimise the potential for social and economic fragmentation. The company's employment policies, for example, give preference to locals and ensure that job opportunities do not result in an inflow of job seekers into the area, keeping the local economy secure and strong.

Capacity-building programmes have also been instituted by Murowa to address community priorities such as improved educational opportunities. Sixteen double classroom blocks have been built to improve the learning environment for local students, directly benefiting 720 children and impacting more than 3,000 school learners. These classroom blocks were built by the Murowa Construction Company, a local company formed and trained by Murowa Diamonds.

The resettlement programme required to establish the mine has also been a story of fresh opportunity for the local community. Over a two-year period, Murowa worked to successfully relocate 142 families living in the area of the mine to the town of Shashe, some 150 kilometres to the east. Each family acquired a new homestead on more land than they’d had before and was compensated for any community assets they had to leave behind. To improve the infrastructure in the community, the company constructed new roads and built a fully-equipped health clinic and primary school, as well as new accommodation for teachers and nurses. Boreholes were also sunk to improve water access and farmer training programmes developed to help the residents improve their yields and better manage their herds. The two-year resettlement programme was so successful in improving the skills, livelihoods and prospects of those making the transition that it earnt Murowa two national Asakheni Awards, recognising good corporate citizenship and social responsibility.

In addition to maintaining its long-term sustainable development programmes, Murowa Diamonds intervenes in times of humanitarian crisis. During the cholera epidemic and extended drought in 2008 and early 2009, for example, the company provided significant humanitarian assistance to the local community and the wider Zvishavane district. It also partners with international health organisations to run community health programmes to help minimise the further spread –and devastating community impact – of HIV/AIDS.

Health, safety and environment

In its relatively short life, Murowa has established a strong safety culture and an excellent safety record, winning multiple awards in the National Safety Security Authority (NSSA) Provincial Awards and the Association of Mine Managers Zimbabwe (AMMZ) national SHE audit competition. It also achieved a significant goal in obtaining international certification for its environmental management systems in 2008. Environmental issues particularly pertinent to the Murowa mine include water conservation, air quality, waste management, land rehabilitation and energy use. Systems are now in place to strictly control and monitor water use, to manage the dust from vehicles to minimise their impact on air quality and to manage both hazardous and non-hazardous waste. The mine has also developed land reclamation and rehabilitation plan and an energy savings plan.