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Rio's Zim Unit Reports Record 2008 Diamond Output

12 may 2009

Rio Tinto's Zimbabwe's diamond unit Murowa produced a record 260,000 carats last year compared to 145,000 carats in 2007, the company's managing director said yesterday, Reuters reported.
Niels Kristensen, the managing director of Murowa, 78% owned by Rio, said the local business environment had improved, but urged the government to do more to attract investors, reported.
"We achieved record diamond production in 2008. diamond production was in the region of 260,000 carats in 2008 and there is potential to increase that substantially," Kristensen told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a mining conference.
"The local environment has improved in Zimbabwe... but there are a number of changes that are needed to improve confidence and we are watching what happens in the medium and long term."
Kristensen would not say why diamond production had risen at a time most mines in the country were closing due to an escalating political and economic crisis.
He also did not give diamond production targets for 2009.
Murowa has the potential to expand diamond production six-fold from current production, Kristensen said, but plans were hampered by uncertainty over ownership laws which require foreign companies to cede 51% shareholding to locals, the report said.
The empowerment laws and frequent changes to Zimbabwe's fiscal and monetary policies had discouraged Murowa going ahead with a $250 - $300 million expansion.
The diamond mine is situated south-west of Harare and has 19 million tons of diamond grade ore, the report said.
"Confidence needs to be rebuilt, but it is easily destroyed and that’s what the country needs to work on," Kristensen told Reuters. "The legislation in its current form is not practical and workable. It will not lead to investments in the country. We fully support the principle of indigenization but it should be done in a workable way."