Rio Tinto set for £207m Zimbabwe mine expansion

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Rio Tinto announces Murowa expansion on halt of diamond exporting ban.

A $300 million (£207 million) expansion of Zimbabwe’s Murowa field has been announced by majority owners Rio Tinto, Reuters has reported.

Diamond firm Rio Tinto owns 78 percent of the Murowa mine, with the remaining 22 percent held by Zimbabwean-owned Rio Zim, which split from Rio Tinto in 2004.

The expansion would take place upon the halt of the diamond export ban, initiated by Zimbabwe’s mines minister last week. The announcement came after human rights groups spoke out against abusive practices taking place in the Marange diamond fields, where the military were allegedly smuggling out diamonds.

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The Zimbabwe government is now waiting on a Kimberley Process Certification for the Marange fields before lifting the export ban, which also covers the already-certified Murowa mine in Mazvihwa, south central Zimbabwe.

Kimberley monitor Abbey Chikane visited the country last week to examine the mining practices in the region, where he stated to reporters that he considered previous issues had been “adequately covered.” In light of this, Chikane said he would make a formal recommendation that certification be granted to the region.

A £207m expansion would significantly increase output at the Murowa mine, which produced 124,000 carats last year.

"We have reinvigorated our feasibility study for a major expansion,"
Murowa chief executive Neil Kristensen told Reuters.

"The expansion will increase production by a factor of 6 to 7 times and double jobs."

"That would push our capacity to 1.8 million carats per year of high quality production, which is predominantly gem."
 

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