Maputo There are 27 companies looking for diamonds in Mozambique, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Esperanca Bias, announced in Maputo on Friday.

These companies hold research and exploration licences in Niassa, Sofala, Manica, Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo provinces. Most of the companies are owned by Mozambicans.

Bias held a meeting with the holders of these licences on Friday. She told reporters that the work was still in an initial phase. Some companies have worked on the ground and collected some samples, she said. Others are gathering information.

Some years ago, exploration in Chicualacuala district, in Gaza, showed the occurrence of diamonds but not of the quantity or quality required to make extraction viable.

In Chicualacuala, the diamonds found were not appropriate to start mining activity, said Bias. But we are encouraged because in the mining area a resource may not be viable today, but it may become viable in six years time depending on the technology and the market.

But Bias stressed that to date no gem diamonds have been extracted from the Mozambican subsoil. Thus any diamonds offered for sale in central Mozambique have almost certainly been smuggled across the border from Zimbabwe.

According to the Deputy National Director of Mines, Geraldo Valoi, of the 27 companies and individuals granted licences, only four have presented reports on their activities, and so information on what is happening on the ground is scarce.

A licence holder named Francisco Henrique Saraiva has sent samples for analysis in South Africa, said Valoi. The companies Metalmoz and Monte Binga have undertaken mapping and geological studies, and collected samples. Another company, Zamex, has compared geological data with the location of the supposed mineralized area where diamonds might occur.

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