Zimbabwe Gem Mines in Trouble

According to a Sept. 14 BBC report, the state-run Herald newspaper quoted Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as saying that the state did not yet have “absolute ownership” of the country’s natural resources. But that may not be true for very long. Mugabe wants at least 50%.

According to the report, the Zimbabwe government is considering the move in an effort to crack down on what it says is the illegal use of foreign currency from exports. Zimbabwe has vast reserves of gold, platinum, nickel, copper, and coal and a fair share of emeralds as well.

Earlier in 2004, Mugabe’s government withdrew a controversial draft law that would have forced mining firms to sell a 49% share in their businesses to black Zimbabweans. “We are going to demand that government be given 50% shares in the mines,” said Mugabe. “We cannot recognize absolute ownership of our resources,” he said. “That must be corrected.”

Emeralds are not highest on the list of valued resources; gold is No. 1. The precious metal accounts for just over 50% of all mineral production in Zimbabwe and is one of the country’s main foreign exchange earners. The government said last month that Zimbabwe’s mining industry was on track for financial recovery, even though the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy over the past four years has left firms facing acute shortages of fuel and other raw materials while rising costs have curbed production.