De Beers Considers Return to Mining In Zimbabwe 25 years After Controversial Exit

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De Beers has expressed interest in the resumption of exploration for diamonds in South Africa’s Northern Cape by looking at opportunities in Zimbabwe exactly 25 years after certifying that there were no diamonds in the Southern Africa country.

“I’m excited about what I’m seeing in Zimbabwe,” said Phillip Barton, chief executive officer of De Beers’ South African unit. “If we get licences, we would have a further look.”

The company is seeking deposits in South Africa after gaining 16 exploration licenses in Northern Cape province, and Barton said it wants to extend searches to Free State, North West and Limpopo, where De Beers is working on the $2 billion Venetia project. It’s natural to look into nearby Zimbabwe, he said. De Beers

“We have Venetia mine that’s literally 20 kilometers from the Zimbabwe border,” Barton said on the sidelines of South Africa’s annual Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town. “Why would it be just on the one side?”

Zimbabwe government has accused De Beers, which started exploration in Zimbabwe in 1993 but left 13 years later after forfeiting its Marange claims controversially taken over by African Consolidated Resources (ACR) and then later by government, of plundering the country’s diamonds during its exploration activities.

De Beers had been granted extensive exclusive prospecting orders (EPOs) for diamond exploration when it came into the country covering a significant fraction of the country. It held a total of 47 EPOs in Chipinge and Chimanimani districts, the first of which was gazette on March 14, 1996.

Investigations by this Financial  Gazzette revealed that the report on the investigation of De Beers activities in Zimbabwe had suggested that there was a possibility that De Beers illegally exported Marange diamonds during exploration.
De Beers has publicly denied the allegations.

Obert Mpofu,  described De Beers as “an international looter” for allegedly failing to report the discovery of gems in Marange, had threatened to tackle the global diamond giant through the due process.
He has said he was convinced De Beers had conducted full-scale mining, and exported billions of United States dollars worth of diamonds, before abandoning its EPOs in 2006.