Maputo — The company Montepuez Ruby Mining has promised officials from the Mozambican Ministry of Mineral Resources that it will begin production of rubies from its concession at Namanhumbire, in Montepuez district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, in late November or early December.
According to a report in Wednesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", the company currently employs about 200 workers, a number that is expected to rise to 500 when the mine is in full production.
Montepuez Ruby Mining is a partnership between he British company Gemfields (which owns 75 per cent of the shares), and the Mozambican company Mwiriti. Its Namanhumbire concession may hold enormous riches, since there are geological indications that Montepuez may hold the world's largest deposits of rubies.
The company claims that it has so far invested five million US dollars, and within the next five years the figure will reach 25 million.
One of the Mozambican partners, Raime Raimundo, told "Noticias" that production should already have started, but has been held up because of the delay in the arrival of processing equipment. The equipment should all be installed by the end of August, he said.
The advantage of the partnership with Gemfields, Raimundo added, is that "the Mozambican partner enters with zero risk - that is, everything concerned with the financial engineering and machinery is done by Gemfields".
A serious problem facing the company has been the invasion of its concession area by artisanal miners. This has led to repeated clashes between the illegal miners and the force protecting the area, consisting of company guards and members of the police.
The worst incident occurred on 7 July when the guards opened fire on a group of some 300 artisanal miners, killing one of them and wounding two others.
According to a report on Radio Mozambique, the incident was sparked off by a sorcerer from the neighbouring province of Nampula who claimed that he could "vaccinate" the miners against bullets.
The miners hired him and his invincibility vaccine for 300,000 meticais (about 10,700 US dollars). Despite this large expenditure, some of the miners were not entirely confident that magic would work. The radio report said they took an extra 300,000 meticais with them to bribe the guards, if necessary.
The radio's source said the commander of the protection force thought the bribe was "insignificant", and ordered the group to stay out of the mining area. An angry discussion between the miners and the guards degenerated into physical clashes, and eventually the use of lethal force.