HARARE, Zimbabwe — The Zimbabwean government will now control all mining in the diamond-rich Marange area, after mining companies were ordered to halt all operations because their licenses have expired, the mining minister said Monday.
All diamond mining will now be managed by the Zimbabwe Consolidated Mining Company, wholly owned by the government, Minister of Mines and Mining Development Walter Chidhakwa said. Private firms may negotiate joint ventures with the government mining company, he added.
The nine mine operators, including Chinese and Russian companies that were already involved in a joint operation with the Zimbabwean government "neglected or failed to renew their special grants," Chidhakwa said.
Chidhakwa said operators were also "cherry-picking" alluvial deposits rather than exploring underground deposits. The Zimbabwean government already owns 50 per cent of all mining companies operating in the eastern Marange, although the private owners of the companies were responsible for marketing and sales of the stones and general operations of the mines, said Chidhakwa.
"Since they no longer hold titles these companies were notified this morning to cease all mining activities with immediate effect and to vacate the mining areas," Chidhakwa told reporters and representatives of the companies in the capital Harare. "They have been given 90 days within which to remove their equipment and other valuables."
The Marange diamond fields caught global attention in 2006 when thousands of unlicensed artisanal miners illegally mined the area, selling stones on the black market. They were later driven out by the army in an operation criticized by human rights groups for its brutality.
Diamonds from the region were barred from being sold sale until 2011 when Zimbabwe was approved by the Kimberley Process, an international effort that certifies legally mined "conflict-free" diamonds to be sold on the international market.
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Farai Mutsaka, The Associated Press