Zimbabwe does not plan to change its ownership rules for diamonds and platinum, its mining minister said on Monday, denting hopes among some miners the country will open up ownership as it announces mineral frameworks in coming weeks.
Zimbabwe in March changed its empowerment law limiting the rules that mandate majority state ownership to diamond and platinum mines, rather than to the mining sector as a whole.
Speaking on the sidelines of an investment conference in London, Minister of Mines and Mining Development Winston Chitando told Reuters there would be “no change” for diamonds and platinum when asked about industry speculation the indigenisation rules could be relaxed further.
An official from a junior miner developing a project in Zimbabwe said on condition of anonymity, he still believed there could be flexibility if miners were, for instance, investing heavily in the local community.
Zimbabwe has held a series of conferences in Africa, as well as in London since the overturning of long-term leader Robert Mugabe in late 2017, raising expectations the mineral-rich southern African country would become more investor friendly.
Progress has been slow but Chitando said the country was determined to bring about change and over the coming weeks would roll out policies for various minerals, including diamonds and gold.
While the indigenisation rules – insisting the state holds 51 percent of platinum or diamond mines – remain in place, Chitando said the diamond policy would focus on developing greater value from the industry.
For instance, the government is trying to ensure the cutting and polishing of stones takes place in Zimbabwe rather than in other countries.
Most of the diamond fields are in Marange in eastern Zimbabwe, where production is dominated by the state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company. It is expected to produce 3.5 million carats this year, up from 2.5 million in 2017.
In early 2016, Mugabe’s government evicted all diamond mining firms, including two Chinese joint venture companies from Marange, saying their licences had expired after they declined to merge under a newly created state-owned mining firm.
The Chinese have been lobbying the new government of Emmerson Mnangagwa to be let back in, but so far without success.