An unexpected source of economic growth has the country on the brink of a revival.
The government of Zimbabwe said Tuesday it will shut down mining operations that have been the focus of years of political unrest and protests against a government plan to turn the country into a gold-producing state.
The country’s main diamond producer, Zimbabwe Diamond Council, said it will halt production of its most popular product, the Zinc Ore, amid the countrys first official gold price drop since January 2011.
The announcement came hours after President Robert Mugabe announced the end of the country s first gold-mining ban.
The move comes a day after President Mugabe, who has presided over the country since independence in 1980, announced the closure of the nations largest gold-processing plant, which has processed nearly 100 tons of gold.
The decision came as Zimbabwe, a country of only 5 million people, has become the first country in Africa to open up its gold exports to foreign buyers.
It also comes amid rising pressure on the government to make concessions on political reforms and implement sweeping reforms aimed at boosting the economy and creating a viable private sector.
The new rules mean gold mines will be allowed to resume operations, although it will take about two years before the ZDC has fully recovered.
They also include tighter restrictions on mining operations, the importation of foreign mining equipment and the opening of the mines to foreign tourists.
A spokesman for the ZEC, a private association that represents the country s diamond miners, said in a statement the move was the result of a long-term commitment to improving the economic and social condition of the people and the economy.
The ZDC said the ban was not a unilateral move.
“This is a very good thing for the economy of Zimbabwe, and we appreciate the governments decision to allow gold mining operations to resume,” ZDC president and chief executive David Shukari said in the statement.
The ZEC said it was prepared to take all necessary steps to provide the country with a strong, viable and efficient mining industry.
Zimbabwean miners had been battling the government for years to keep mining operations open.
The country is one of the most-isolated in Africa.
The gold market has been in free fall since the end March, with prices down by nearly 70% from the peak in November 2011.
A number of other African nations have opened up their economies to foreign investors and foreign mining has also expanded in recent years.
In recent months, the U.S. and China have begun buying up gold and silver from the South African mining giant Anglo American.