MAPUTO, The Mozambican police say they have expelled more than 4,000 illegal miners from the Namanhumbir area in the northern province of Cabo Delgado since February.

The Maputo daily, Noticias, on Monday quoted the spokesperson for the Cabo Delgado provincial police command, Malva Brito, as saying that the defence and security forces were determined to end the illegal mining for rubies and garnets.

He added that currently 50 illegal miners, including Mozambican and foreigners, were in police custody. The foreigners would be repatriated to their countries of origin, while the Mozambicans would be released against a promise never to return to Namanhumbir for informal mining.

The operation to expel the illegal miners never stopped. It’s here to stay. The defence and security forces have clear orders not to allow anyone to practise illegal mining. The playing about is over, and illegal mining will no longer be tolerated. Our forces are on the ground, and we will not allow these miners to return,” he said.

Brito said the police operations had restored calm to Namanhumbir and the surrounding villages. The authorities are clearly determined that the ruby deposits in this part of Cabo Delgado, the largest in the world, will only be exploited by companies which have the necessary licences, and which pay taxes to the Mozambican State.

The Namanhumbir rubies are officially exploited by the Montepuez Ruby Mining Ltd, which is 75 per cent owned by the British company, Gemfields. The concession covers 33,600 hectares.