Zimbabwe cancels British firm’s mining licence

Zimbabwe has cancelled a British firm’s mining licence, the company’s lawyer said on Tuesday, in the latest tussle over diamond fields plagued by human rights abuses.

The decision to cancel the licence of African Consolidated Resources to mine the eastern Marange fields came days after government unveiled new regulations to force foreign firms to give locals a majority stake in major corporations.

“My clients received a letter last week informing them of the intention to cancel their licence,” said the firm’s lawyer Jonathan Samkange.

“We were given up to March 10 to appeal against the decision.”

The London Stock Exchange-listed ACR has been embroiled in a legal fight with mining authorities after it was ordered in 2006 to suspend its operations in Marange.

The minefields then fell to illegal miners, including foreign nationals. Security agents used lethal force to evict the diamond panners, resulting in deaths and serious injuries.

Reports by rights groups and mining watchdogs implicated security forces in human rights violations including detaining and forcing people to use bare hands to refill holes left by the illegal miners.

Kimberley Process signatories censured the government over the rights violations and ordered the withdrawal of security forces.

Samkange said ACR would press ahead with its legal battle to win back its mining rights, in a case now before Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court.

Last month the Supreme Court ordered ordered the central bank to keep 129 400 carats of diamonds, seized from ACR in 2007, until the courts make a final determination in the case.

Zimbabwe last week published new regulations to give local investors a 51% stake in major corporations such as banks and mines.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the regulations — set to take effect in March — were invalid as they were not discussed and approved by the Cabinet. – AFP

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