Zimbabwe risks losing 45 million U. S. dollars diamond revenue from Belgium after a South African company sued for wrongful cancellation of its platinum mining agreement with a Zimbabwe state mining firm in 2010, state media reported Thursday.
Zimbabwe began trading its diamonds in Antwerp in November last year after the European Union lifted sanctions on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the state mining firm that has partnered six companies to mine diamonds in Marange.
The country's third 10-day diamond auction in Antwerp was scheduled to run from the third of this month to Tuesday this week with 500,000 carats expected to go under the hammer.
But the South Africa based Amari Platinum Holdings was last week granted an order by a Belgium court to attach Zimbabwe diamonds worth 45 million dollars.
The company argued that the Zimbabwe government wrongfully terminated its memorandum of agreement with the ZMDC in 2010 after it had invested over 4.5 million dollars in exploration work for platinum mining.
Zimbabwe's Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa was quoted by the Herald newspaper as saying that government had sent a team of lawyers to Belgium to argue Zimbabwe's case.
The minister accused Amari of jumping the gun by rushing to the Belgian High Court before the dispute had gone before the International Court of Dispute Resolution in Zambia on Sept. 19, 2014.
Chidhakwa argued that the diamonds in Belgium did not belong to ZMDC but to the companies which it had partnered with in mining the Marange gems and that these companies could not be punished for ZMDC "sins."
The companies with the diamonds in Belgium are Jinan Mining, Anjin Investments, DMC, Mbada Diamonds, DTZ OZGEO and Marange Resources, which is wholly owned by the Zimbabwe government while the rest are in partnership with the ZMDC.
"We have dispatched a team to Belgium and a team left yesterday (Wednesday). They will be looking at two issues, first the matter that has triggered this is sub judice, it is before the International Court, secondly, ZMDC does not have diamonds in Antwerp," Chidhakwa said.
He said he hoped for due process to be followed and for a favorable outcome for Zimbabwe.