Zimbabwe court orders Mugabe allies off RioZim mine

HARARE Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:05am EST

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HARARE Feb 12 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's High Court has ordered allies of President Robert Mugabe, including the tourism minister, to leave a RioZim Limited gold mine that they invaded last month, state media reported on Tuesday.

RioZim went to court earlier this month to fight off two lawmakers, including tourism minister Walter Mzembi from Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, who had taken control of its Renco gold mine, 300 km (200 miles) south of Harare, in January.

High Court judge Hlekani Mwayera ordered Mzembi and others to vacate the mine and to stop interfering with its operations, the Herald newspaper reported.

Renco, formed in 2004 when Rio Tinto Plc sold most of its Zimbabwe assets, produced 11,000 ounces of gold in the first half of 2012 when it resumed operations after shutting down at the height of Zimbabwe's hyperinflation crisis in 2008.

RioZim said it had lost $150,000 in daily production during the stand-off and was unable to assert control over the mine.

In a statement issued earlier this month, RioZim said Mzembi had claimed he had taken over Renco because the company had not complied with Mugabe's black empowerment laws, which seek to transfer majority shareholdings of foreign firms to locals.

The minister denied the charge, saying he had only been called in to resolve a wage dispute.

Major mining firms in Zimbabwe, including leading platinum producers Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum , have been forced to surrender majority stakes to local investors under the Mugabe-led black empowerment drive.

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