The Zimbabwe government suspects that there could be diamonds on a private farm which is owned by Nicholas Opppenheimer, a South African billionaire businessman and former chairman of De Beers diamond mining company, Francis Gudyanda, the mines ministry secretary said on Thursday.
Speaking at a panel discussion at the ongoing Diamond conference, Gudyanga said the Oppenheimer farm was ‘bigger in area than Belgium’ but would require government approval to extract.
“There are suspicions that there are diamonds (at the farm) yes,” Gundyanga said.
“Exploration is underway and anyone who wants to register claims on the farm needs us to approve. Besides, they cannot mine them without our approval.”
While Nicholas is named by Forbes Magazine as South Africa’s richest person with an estimated net worth of $6,8 billion as at June this year, the Oppenheimer family have big land holdings in the country in central Zimbabwe and Matabeleland North.
Gudyanga said the state suspects that Oppenheimer would have used substantial exploration information collected by De Beers over the years it operated in the country.
Oppenheimer sold his 40 percent ownership of De Beers in July 2012 to Anglo American, a company founded by his grandfather, Ernest Oppenheimer in 1917, along with American Bank JP Morgan for $5.1 billion in cash.
The Oppenheimer family are the largest shareholder in Anglo, with Nicholas, who served on the company’s board for 37 years until 2011, holding an estimated 1.8 percent stake.
Founded by Cecil John Rhodes in 1888, De Beers is a conglomeration of companies that has dominated every facet of the diamond industry, including mining, shops, trading and industrial diamond manufacturing sectors.
It is owned by Anglo American, which has 85 percent of the shares while the Botswana government holds the remaining 15 percent.
In November 2012, former mines minister Obert Mpofu attacked De Beers, accusing it of hiding the discovery of diamonds in Marange and looting ‘tonnes’ of the gems, a claim denied by the firm.
De Beers applied for and got an Exclusive Prospecting Order (EPO) for Marange diamond fields in 1994 and prospected for about 12 years.
When the prospecting licence expired in 2006, it relinquished its prospecting rights and left the country, saying it was not interested in retaining the EPO.https://m.facebook.com/panafricanliberationmovement?_e_pi_=7%2CPAGE_ID10%2C1870716091