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Zimbabwe's planned 'wealth fund' to target mines, minister says

From Columbus S. Mavhunga, For CNN
Saviour Kasukuwere says foreign mining companies are "milking" the wealth of black Zimbabwean miners.
Saviour Kasukuwere says foreign mining companies are "milking" the wealth of black Zimbabwean miners.
  • "We have been careful to implement this," minister says
  • New guidelines of mine ownership will be published Friday, the minister says
  • The new policy will target foreign-owned mines
  • Zimbabwe
  • Rio Tinto plc

Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Zimbabwean officials have said the government will create a fund that will take control of 51% of the country's mines to finance development.

"We have been careful to implement this ... We need the 51% (equity) to come into our sovereign wealth fund," said Saviour Kasukuwere, the minister of youth and empowerment. "We all agreed as a government."

New guidelines on the mine policy, which will affect foreign-owned businesses, will be published Friday, the minister said.

Kasukuwere -- an appointee of President Robert Mugabe -- was speaking at an investment conference in Harare on Wednesday.

The two-day event attracted about 300 delegates from all over the world, including policymakers, businessmen, financiers and key investment players.

Zimbabwe was in recession between 1998 and 2008. The formation of a coalition government after disputed elections sparked some economic stability, but investors remain jittery over the controversial mine policy.

It is meant to empower black Zimbabweans, according to government officials.

"We are not moving back on the 51% equity for our people," the minister said. "We can't allow foreigners to give us a raw deal. They are milking our wealth while we suffer."

However, the minister of economic planning and investment promotion said the new mine policy should not deter investors.

"This is not about grabbing foreigners' equity," said Tapiwa Mashakada. "As a country, we need this fund to develop."

The economic and planning minister said the funds from the mines will go toward infrastructure and other growth efforts.

"It is a reserve fund to bankroll our developmental projects," said Mashakada, an appointee of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zimbabwe is rich in minerals such as diamonds, uranium, chrome, platinum and gold. Major players in the mining industry include AngloPlat and mining giant Rio Tinto.

The youth minister said last year's earnings from mineral exports were $1.7 billion, which is about 30% of Zimbabwe's estimated yearly GDP.

Only $4 million was paid as tax to the cash-strapped Zimbabwe government, Kasukuwere said.