Bloomberg News

Rio’s Murowa Eclipsed by Mbada as Zimbabwe’s Biggest Gem Miner

September 12, 2011

Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Rio Tinto Plc’s Murowa diamond mine has been eclipsed as Zimbabwe’s largest gem producer by Mbada Mines (Pvt) Ltd. after the closely held miner increased output, according to its chairman, Robert Mhlanga.

Mbada, based in the capital, Harare, is producing more than 150,000 carats a month from its operations at the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe, he said in an interview in the city on Sept. 7. That compares with 250,000 carats a year at Murowa, according to the company’s website.

“Our vision is to be the leading gem producer globally,” Mhlanga said. De Beers, which vies with Russia’s Alrosa as the world’s largest diamond miner, aims to produce to about 35 million carats this year, the company, a unit of Anglo American Plc, said on July 26. A carat is a fifth of a gram.

Mbada is one of four companies mining diamonds at Marange, where Human Rights Watch has accused Zimbabwean authorities of killing local villagers and illegal miners. In 2008, more than 200 people were killed when security forces seized the Marange fields, according to the New York-based group. Zimbabwe’s government has rejected the accusations.

Rapaport Group’s RapNet Diamond Trading Network, the world’s biggest, in November banned its members from dealing in gems from Marange because of reports of “severe” human rights violations in the area.

In January, Zimbabwe was given permission to hold two diamond auctions this year by the Kimberley Process, an international body set up to control the sale of conflict gems, Deputy Mines Minister Gift Chimanikire said.

Annual income from the Marange field could rise to $2 billion if the country is allowed to export gems freely, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said, according to a report in the state- controlled Herald newspaper in October last year.

Mbada’s Mhlanga declined to say how many diamonds are currently being produced at the Marange fields.

--Editors: Alastair Reed, Alex Devine.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Johannesburg at blatham@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin on asguazzin@bloomberg.net


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