The Zimbabwean government is reportedly set to open the diamond mining industry to two new private companies, whose identities were not disclosed.
The new companies will be able to undertake exploration and mining operations, Zimbabwe Mines Minister Winston Chitando was quoted by Reuters as saying.
With this move, the number of private companies operating in the country’s diamond mining sector will increase to four.
The decision was taken as part of a new mining policy which was adopted at a cabinet meeting.
Chitando stated that any company or person with title for diamonds would need to forge an alliance with the four private firms.
Zimbabwe’s largest diamond fields are located at Marange, in the eastern part of the country. The state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company is a major producer, with its production reaching 2.5 million carats last year.
This year, the company is expected to achieve an output of 3.5 million carats.
Murowa Diamonds, in which Rio Tinto held a majority stake and later divested it in 2015, is the only private company mining diamonds.
Chitando added: “Four is a number which was felt that it would give government and all stakeholders the effective monitoring of what is happening on the ground.”
Recently, Vast Resources and Botswana Diamonds received a preliminary geological assessment for their Heritage concession in the Marange fields area. The companies are undertaking exploration work in partnership with a local community trust.
In 2016, the government under former Prime Minister Robert Mugabe evicted all diamond mining companies operating in the Marange region. These firms included two Chinese joint venture companies.
The government cited expiry of licences as the reason for the eviction after the companies refused to merge under the state-owned miner.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that the government might allow foreign firms to have majority ownership in diamond mines, a move that could benefit private miners.