Zimbabwe's mining minister said the government will now control all mining in the diamond-rich Marange area, after operators were ordered to halt all mining because their licenses have expired.

Minister Walter Chidhakwa on Monday said all diamond mining will be managed by the Zimbabwe Consolidated Mining Company, wholly owned by the state. He said private firms may negotiate joint ventures with the state mining company.

Chidhakwa said the nine mining companies operating in the region, including Chinese and Russian firms, have 90 days to vacate the area.

The Marange diamond fields caught global attention in 2006 when thousands of unlicensed artisanal miners illegally mined the area, selling stones on the black market. They were later driven out by the army in an operation criticized by human rights groups for its brutality.