Diamond tycoon sees Zimbabwe ‘glimmer of hope’ ahead of Marange joint venture

John Teeling, the millionaire Irish businessman with interests in AIM-listed explorer Botswana Diamonds, says he sees “glimmers of hope” in Zimbabwe where he is in a joint venture with Vast Resources to mine Marange diamonds.

The operation at Marange would likely start with a pilot plant once all approvals from Zimbabwe authorities, Teeling said last week on the release of the annual financial results of Botswana Diamonds.

“We also have interests in Zimbabwe. The Marange area of Zimbabwe has in recent years produced large quantities of diamonds. The geology is complex and the rocks very hard. Botswana Diamonds directors have extensive experience in mining in Zimbabwe and were pleased to agree a joint venture with Vast Resources, an AIM-traded company, over a concession in the Marange area,” Teeling said.

Botswana Diamonds, based in Dublin, will provide technical expertise to the project.

“We will have 13.3% of the joint venture and will provide technical and geological input to Vast. Vast agreed to provide the first US$1 million to the project in the form of loan. We understand that Vast are hopeful that a final agreement with the Zimbabwe authorities is imminent.”

In May 2018, Vast signed a memorandum of understanding with Botswana Diamonds to form a special purpose vehicle as Vast to develop the Marange concession. Vast then went on to sign a partnership with a local community company to form a new vehicle, Katanga, which will jointly develop the mine with state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.

Botswana Diamonds, also in 2018, exited an exploration joint venture in Botswana with Alrosa, the Russian firm that is the world’s largest diamond company. Interestingly, both Botswana Diamonds and Alrosa are now involved in Zimbabwe diamonds.

All that glimmers

Teeling, in his note to shareholders, offers an upbeat outlook on prospects in Zimbabwe’s mining, where confidence has been hit by forex and power shortages.

Said Teeling: “Turning to operations, the political situation in each of the three countries where we operate has improved. Fresh democratic elections in Botswana have led to continuity and stability. There is a slow improvement in the investment attractiveness of South Africa. In Zimbabwe there are glimmers of hope.”

Vast Resources is currently awaiting launch of the ZCDC partnership.

“Assuming Vast Resources obtain the concession in the Marange area of Zimbabwe, (the plan is) to start work most probably with a pilot production plant,” said Teeling.

Teeling is also founder of one of Ireland’s biggest whiskey distilleries. Teeling Whiskey in 2017 sold a minority stake to Bacardi, the global spirits brand.