ACR loses the fight

HARARE - African Consolidated Resources Plc (ACR), whose right of title to claims on the Marange diamond field was confirmed by the Zimbabwe High Court, has finally lost the fight as diamonds from its claims went under the hammer yesterday.

The Zimbabwe government seized ACR’s Marange diamond field in October 2006 and allocated the claim to the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. The seizure, backed by Zimbabwe’s military, took place after thousands of illegal miners descended on Marange. African Consolidated had held the claim for less than a year before its confiscation.

ACR has “attempted to work with all elements of the Zimbabwe government in order to agree a joint venture with the Zimbabwe government or parties nominated by them,” the company said in a statement released in the UK. But this has been rejected by the government, which auctioned the first batch of diamonds from Marange yesterday in an auction conducted by several international buyers.

Zimbabwe auctioned the first stockpile of diamonds extracted from the area, which legally belong to ACR. Zimbabwe says it holds a stockpile of over 4 million carats of Marange diamonds worth an estimated $1.7 billion, almost as much as its 2010 budget. Industry experts estimate Marange has the potential to contribute between 25 to 35 per cent of the world supply, earning the country billions of dollars.

The Kimberley Process, a diamond industry self-regulating body, and the Association of African Diamond Producing Countries, visited Marange last Saturday for final certification, culminating in the auction yesterday. The teams also inspected the Forbes Border Post, and tour operations at Mbada Holdings and Canadile Miners’ facilities – two firms that the government has licenced to exploit the Marange resources.

Zimbabwe had been barred from selling diamonds until minimum standards were met in Marange. The KP monitor said Zimbabwe had now met all the minimum requirements. The Zimbabwean government has never given a formal reason for the seizure of ACR’s diamond claim in eastern Zimbabwe. “The group remains committed to dialogue with the Zimbabwe government,” ACR said.

Zimbabwe’s mines minister Obert Mpofu, a member of Zanu (PF), has vowed that ACR will never be allowed to reclaim the Marange diamond fields ostensibly because the London Stock Exchange listed concern campaigned against Zimbabwe

at the KP. The KP finally gave Zimbabwe the go ahead at the end of an annual World Diamond Council meeting in Russia in July, ending a stand-off between the southern African country and the KP regulator and rights groups which accused the army of rights abuses at Marange.

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