The Zimbabwean government has taken control of the Marange diamond fields, ordering nine companies to cease all mining activities.
Last year the Zimbabwean government announced it would merge all diamond mines into a single government-owned entity, known as the Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Company, which is now recruiting personnel.
Mines and mining development minister Walter Chidhakwa said companies were operating illegally after the expiry of their joint venture mining licences.
“It has since come to our attention that the joint venture companies have been operating illegally, as the permits which had been granted expired and were not renewed over the last four to five years,” Chidhakwa said.
Last month Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe government John Mangudya complained about the lack of transparency in the diamond companies, and that the government did not know about their gem production volumes or export figures.
The Zimbabwean government already owned 50 per cent of all mining companies operating in the Marange, with private operators responsible for marketing and general operations.
Chidhakwa said the companies had 90 days to remove their equipment and assets from the mines.
Six companies, including Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Co., Jinan Mining Ltd., Kusena Diamonds, Marange Resources Ltd. and Mbada Diamonds had previously refused to accept the nationalisation of their assets.
However, minister Chidhakwa said private firms could negotiate joint ventures with the state mining company.
In 2011 Rio Tinto conceded 51 per cent of its Murowa Diamonds operation to the local government after new laws forced miners into handing over majority ownership.
Then-prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the move was “looting and plunder by a greedy elite”.
Four years ago the World Diamond Council and the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme stated that the Marange diamond fields were the largest discovery in a century, with potential to supply for 25 per cent of the world’s rough diamonds.