At Zimbabwe’s biggest diamond field, cattle that strayed through a sagging fence graze unattended near idled dump trucks and conveyors as police stop and check visitors’ vehicles for clearance.
Security forces and state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Co. on Feb. 22 took over the deposits in Marange, the biggest source of diamonds by volume in 2013, according to industry analyst Paul Zimnisky.
The seizure came as President Robert Mugabe said that illicit trade in the stones has cost the economy, which has halved in size since 2000 as farm seizures slashed crop exports, more than $13 billion. The nation is the world’s biggest platinum producer after South Africa and also has chrome, gold and iron ore.
Zimbabwe, a $14 billion economy for which mining is the biggest source of foreign currency, first seized the fields from a U.K.-based company in 2006 and set up ventures with private companies to mine the gems. In 2014, the state announced plans to cut the number of Marange operators to one or two from seven after it said they failed to properly account for revenue.
“The government simply allowed these companies, the Chinese, and locals to do their own thing without proper structures,” John Robertson, an independent economist based in the capital Harare, said by phone.
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