The Mozambican police have removed 796 illegal miners from the Namanhumbir area, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, reports Friday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.Namanhumbir is the site of major deposits of rubies and other precious stones. It is estimated to hold 40 per cent of the world’s rubies. The ruby concession covers 33,600 hectares, and is operated by Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), which holds a 25 year mining licence granted by the Mozambican government. MRM is a partnership between the British company Gemfields (with a 75 per cent stake), and the Mozambican company Mwiriti.
Ever since the deposit was discovered in 2009, illegal miners have descended on Montepuez, not only from other parts of Mozambique, but from the rest of Africa.According to the head of the department for the protection of natural resources and the environment, in the Cabo Delgado police command, Abdul Chaguro, of the 796 illegal miners removed from Namanhumbir, 205 are natives of Montepuez district, while 346 came from elsewhere in Mozambique, and have been sent back to their provinces of origin.
The rest were foreigners. Chaguro said 169 were Tanzanians, while the others came from Guinea-Conakry, Mali, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Somalia and Thailand. There was even one Belgian among those detained.
He told reporters that some of the Tanzanians have already been repatriated, and preparations are under way to deport the other foreigners. Some of the foreigners had entry visas, but in some cases these had expired. Some had residence permits – but which allowed them to live in a different area. Most of the Tanzanians, however, had no documents at all.Chaguro said there was one case in which a policeman was accused of seizing goods belonging to a miner: these were returned to their rightful owner. Two members of the local community police council were detained for trying to steal chairs and a generator from the tent of another foreigner.
Chaguro said the miners had been given a deadline to leave Namanhumbir voluntarily, and the police only moved in after they ignored the deadline. No-one was killed or injured in the police operation.He promised that, in the near future, the crackdown against illegal mining will be expanded to other areas of the country.