January 14, 2019 / 5:36 PM / in 4 days

Russia's Alrosa returns to diamond exploration in Zimbabwe

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian diamond giant Alrosa has set up a subsidiary in Zimbabwe to begin mining operations there, it said on Monday, more than two years after it shelved plans to expand into the southern African country.

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa (L) shakes hands with Sergei Ivanov, CEO of Russian diamond producer Alrosa, during a meeting in Moscow, Russia January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond producer by output, started conducting geological exploration in Zimbabwe in 2013 but dropped the licenses it held there in 2016 due to a reform of the country’s diamond industry.

“Today we see opportunities for a new stage of our partnership,” Alrosa chief executive Sergey Ivanov said in a statement, announcing the launch of Alrosa’s new operations as Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrived in Moscow for official visit.

Zimbabwe has opened “a small window” for foreign companies to participate in its diamond industry to maximize exploration, Mnangagwa told reporters when visiting one of Alrosa’s operations in Moscow on Monday, without giving further details.

State-controlled Alrosa said it would develop new mining operations in the country with the support of the Zimbabwean government.

Alrosa established a subsidiary in Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare in December, and its geologists and mining engineers will arrive in the country to start operations in February, it said.

Alrosa did not provide any further detail about future projects in the country.

Alrosa’s main production assets are based in Russia, but the company also has operations in Angola. Russia has been raising its profile across Africa in recent years, signing military cooperation deals, ramping up trade and looking at joint platinum projects in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has held a series of conferences in Africa as well as in London since the overturning of long-term leader Robert Mugabe in late 2017, raising expectations the mineral-rich southern African country would become more investor-friendly.

Mnangagwa’s visit to Russia is happening while protesters barricade roads and burn tires in Harare on Monday, two days after he raised the price of fuel by 150 percent in response to the worst economic crisis in a decade.

Reporting by Polina Ivanova and Polina Devitt; Editing by Jan Harvey and Susan Fenton

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