The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has said his government will take possession of all diamond operations because existing miners had robbed the country of its wealth.
Mugabe made his comments a week after the ministry of mines ordered all mining companies to halt work and leave the Marange fields, saying they had not renewed their licences. At the time it denied it was seizing the mines.
“The state will now own all the diamonds in the country,” Mugabe said during a two-hour interview with state broadcaster ZBC TV. “Companies that have been mining diamonds have robbed us of our wealth, that is why we have now said the state must have a monopoly,” Mugabe said.
The largest diamond mine in Marange, Mbada Diamonds, sued the government at the high court on Monday and was allowed to take control of its mining assets.
Chinese-run Anjin Investments also challenged the government ban at the same court on Wednesday, according to a court application seen by Reuters.
Mugabe said he told the Chinese president, Xi Xinping, during his visit toZimbabwe last December that his government was not getting much from Chinese-owned mining firms.
Zimbabwe was the eighth-largest diamond producer in the world with 4.7mcarats in 2014, according to industry group Kimberley Process. Last year the government received $23m (£16.2m) in royalties and other fees from diamond mines, down from $84m in 2014.