Sep 29, 2011
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Miners meet Zimbabwe deadline on ownership-minister

Sep 29, 2011

HARARE, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Mining firms in Zimbabwe have mostly met a September deadline by which they were required to submit plans to transfer a 51 percent stake in their operations to locals, empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere said on Thursday.

The heavily criticised law is aimed mainly at mining firms and banks operating in a resource-rich state that has become an economic basket case because of what analysts say are years of mismanagement by President Robert Mugabe's government.

Platinum mine - Photo: Corbis

"I am pleased to say that the deadline we set has been largely met by mining firms," Kasukuwere told journalists.

"I'm happy that the bulk of the major players are engaged with us and are complying. Areas of disagreement are being handled between the mining firms and ourselves. What is left now is the implementation."

The world's leading platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum , number two producer Impala Platinum and Rio Tinto , which operates a diamond mine, are some of the major foreign mining firms with assets in Zimbabwe.

Critics said a major reason for the law is to allow Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to build up a war chest ahead of national elections that could come as early as next year.

They say Zimbabwe, which is emerging from a decade-long slump, has no capacity to raise the funds needed to take over the mining assets and the cash generated by the firms would go to top officials, not ordinary people, who rank among the poorest in the world.

Mugabe was forced to share power with his rival Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister, two years ago after disputed elections in 2008. The two have sharp differences over the ownership policy.

Tsvangirai said this week the law was hurting investor confidence and threatened Zimbabwe's economic recovery.

Kasukuwere says Chinese investment is not exempt from the empowerment law. China has become an increasingly important player in Zimbabwe, which has been shunned and sanctioned by global powers for suspected human rights abuses under Mugabe.

Answering a question on the ownership plans for the Zimbabwe Mining and Smelting Company, the country's largest ferrochrome producer wholly owned by China's Sinosteel, the minister said: "Every company must follow the policies and laws of this country. There's no exception, no sacred cows."

(Writing by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Jon Herskovitz)

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