The Murowa Diamond Mine is located near Zvishavane in south-central Zimbabwe. The mine comprises three kimberlite pipes (a form of diamond-bearing rock) which were discovered in 1997. Production from Murowa began in 2004 with a current capability of around 300,000 carats per annum.
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 and the remaining 22 per cent interest is owned by Riozim Limited, an independent Zimbabwean owned and listed company.
Mining and processing
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 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.
Rio Tinto Diamonds' sales and marketing team in Antwerp, Belgium sorts and sells the production from the Murowa mine to an international customer base.
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.
The company employs around 180 people directly and a further 150 full-time contractors provide mining and village services. Through a series of programmes and initiatives, Murowa Diamonds has created opportunities for its people and those from local communities to extend their careers, businesses and livelihoods.
Despite fluctuations in the national economy, Murowa Diamonds is committed to building stability in its workforce by providing robust remuneration and retention policies. In the past, the company has helped provide basic necessities such as food packages and travel allowances to assist employees and their families in the face of critical shortages of basic commodities.
Extensive sustainable development programmes are in place in the communities surrounding the operation. Murowa works consultatively with local communities via its five-year Communities Action Plan, through which it commits to help develop sustainable local communities.
As part of its commitment to sustainable development, Murowa Diamonds has undertaken a number of initiatives to help these communities build capacity and long-term sustainability, and to reduce the impact of the mine on their traditions and lifestyle.
As the area of the mine was already fully populated, Murowa Diamonds needed to resettle 142 families from Murowa to Shashe. Working in conjunction with the community, the company undertook a two-year resettlement plan that saw it win two significant national awards for social responsibility.
Every house and farm had to be replaced and each family relocated to Shashe was allocated more land than they had in Murowa.
New roads and infrastructure were constructed. The company built a rural health centre and a primary school, including housing for teachers and nurses, implemented community development projects including micro-irrigation and set up agricultural and business training programmes that allowed farmers to improve their yield and local families to set up sustainable businesses.
Murowa Diamonds respects the traditional and cultural values of the community and, through commute rosters and internal codes of conduct, minimises the potential for social and economic fragmentation in these communities. The company's employment policies 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.
From the inception of Murowa's sustainable development programmes, education has been identified as a community priority.
In 2009, Murowa focused on the development of educational infrastructure to help improve the learning environment of children in its surrounding communities. Sixteen double classroom blocks were built, 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.
In addition to maintaining its long-term sustainable development programmes, Murowa Diamonds is always prepared to intervene in times of humanitarian crisis. During the cholera epidemic and extended drought in 2008 and early 2009, the company provided significant humanitarian assistance to the local community and the wider Zvishavane district.