Tanzania seizes diamonds from British mining company

Diamonds have no centralised price so calculating the overall value of that parcel is tricky, and appears to be the main reason the parcel has been blocked.

Petra Diamonds has halted operations at one of its mines in Tanzania after the government seized a consignment and questioned some of its personnel as part of a crackdown on the mining sector.

Minister of Finance Philip Mpango stated on Sunday that he had “nationalized” these diamonds, extracted from the Williamson Diamonds mine, 75% owned by Petra Diamonds and 25% by the Tanzanian government.

The company said the 71,645-carat consignment had been given a provisional value of almost $14.8m by Tanzania’s own diamonds and gemstones valuation agency before being prepared for export.

“The Government has complete oversight of the diamonds produced at the mine, which are physically controlled by a number of different Government representatives in conjunction with Petra from the point of recovery until the point of sale”, it said.

The company has suspended operations at the mine, for “health and safety and security reasons”.

On Thursday, two former senior mining officials, quoted in parliamentary reports on alleged embezzlement linked to diamond mining and trading, resigned on the orders of President John Magufuli.

The company said mining operations “are conducted in a transparent manner and in full compliance with legislation in Tanzania and the Kimberley Process“.

“However the grounds upon which these actions have been taken have not been formally made known to the Company as yet”. “The company will provide an update on this matter in due course”, said Petra.

Petra is not the first mining company to run into trouble with the authorities in Tanzania. Earlier in the summer, it was hit with a tax bill for $190bn after government-appointed committees said it was operating illegally and had understated its gold exports.

Mining accounts for about 4% of the south-east African country’s economy.

Francis Massawe, the Manyara regional police commander, said the three officials were arrested in Arusha on Thursday evening, hours after the president was presented with the report and they were later escorted under heavy police guard to Babati, the headquarters of Manyara region.

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