Zim Orders Diamond Miners to Halt Operations

Harare: At a press conference earlier yesterday, the government of Zimbabwe has given all diamond mining companies in Marange a 90-day ultimatum to remove equipment after ordering them to halt operations with immediate effect for rejecting a proposal to consolidate the sector, Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa said after announcing that their licences had also expired.

The consolidation saga started last March when Zimbabwe announced plans to merge the diamond mining companies in Marange, including Rio Tinto’s Murowa diamond mine in south-central Zimbabwe. “We are very clear, this is a regulatory matter and we have said to them the only way you can participate in diamond mining in Zimbabwe is by being in this company,” Chidhakwa said. This led to Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest mining company, to exit Zimbabwe altogether last June, selling its stakes in diamond and coal mines to its former local unit, RioZim Ltd. exiting Zimbawe.

Chidhakwa first issued his ultimatum back in July, but little progress has been made since, as the miners failed to make payments or invest in mining infrastructure. This did not stop Chidhakwa from saying last December that the mines merger was nearly complete, but the miners still refused to play ball. It now appears that Chidhakwa is ready to make good on his earlier threat. “Since they no longer hold any titles, these companies were notified this morning to cease all mining activities with immediate effect and to vacate the mining areas covered by Special Grants for diamonds. They have been given 90 days within which to remove their equipment and other valuables. During this period, access into the premises will be by request which will be considered by the ministry of Mines and Mining Development.”