Workers down tools at Chinese-run “world’s largest” diamond mine, viability in doubt

Workers down tools at Chinese-run “world’s largest” diamond mine, viability in doubt

By Chipo Musoko, HARARE, October 17 (The Source) - Anjin Diamond Mine workers in Chiadzwa on Friday downed tools demanding to be paid the balance of last month’s salaries, amid reports that the company, which claimed to have become the world’s largest just three years ago, is facing viability challenges, The Source has established.

Anjin, one of the seven firms licenced to mine the vast government-controlled Marange diamond field, is a joint venture between China’s Anhui Foreign Economic Construction (Group) Co and Zimbabwean state entities and began operations in 2009. Marange firms have, since 2013, reported diminishing alluvial diamond deposits in the area.

The miners, who have been engaged in open cast operations, said they had hit hard rock and that deep seated conglomerate diamonds were not commercially viable.

Workers who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, told The Source that around 200 employees converged at the company's administration block on Friday morning demanding to be paid the balance of their September salaries but management did not address them.

"We were paid half of our salaries for September last week and management told us that they don't know when the balance will be paid," said one worker who declined to be named.

"We are struggling and we want to be paid our salaries or terminal benefits."

He said workers had not received any wage increase since the company began operating five years ago. He added that workers were now being given three month contracts; a move unionists believe has been designed to enable Anjin to avoid paying employee benefits should it decide to lay them off.

Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union president Cosmas Sunguro confirmed the industrial action.

"The workers this morning were milling at the administration office and refused to work until they get paid in full," he said.

Sunguro said workers in the diamond sector were experiencing many challenges, including late payment of wages and salaries and the firms’ refusal to disclose production figures, thus compromising the union’s bargaining powers.

He said some workers were made to work for 12 hours instead of the stipulated eight hours, while accidents in the workplace were also on the increase. He, however, could not immediately give figures.

According to a union source, the lowest paid worker at Anjin earns around $310 monthly, but employees were only paid between $120 and $130 for September.

Another worker expressed fear over job security, due to the viability challenges facing the company.

"We want our terminal benefits for the past two years because we are no longer sure that our jobs are guaranteed," he said.

The worker said in August, Anjin paid salary arrears of three months only after another strike.

"Our contracts expired on July 4, and now we are getting three month contracts. We just signed another one for October," he said.

In the last meeting with management, workers were told that the company was waiting for its money that was held up in Belgium from the sale of diamonds and would know the outcome on October 23.

The workers said they had resolved to converge at the administration block again on Saturday to press for payment.

"We are continuing tomorrow until 12 and if they don't address us then they should pay us our packages so that we leave," he said.

Earlier this year, some workers at the mine were reportedly sent on forced unpaid leave.

Anjin officials were not immediately available to comment on the development.

Munyaradzi Machacha, an Anjin director, told state media in December 2011 that the firm now ran the workd biggest gem mine.

“We are the largest diamond company in the world and this has been confirmed by (industry watchdog) KPC.  We are the largest in terms of the size of our area of operation and the amount of ore we are capable of processing every day. We have got the largest deposits in the world,” Machacha was quoted telling the Chronicle newspaper.

Last month, mines minister, Walter Chidhakwa said government has started the process to integrate Marange, Gye Nyame and Kusena into one company.

The government has said it wants up to two miners to operate in the area to minimise leakages and improve accountability.

You must be logged in to view this content.