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London-Listed ACR Says Will Appeal 'Surprising' Zimbabwe Court Ruling

Sources in court Monday said Hungwe seemed ill at ease delivering the ruling, noting that he made a number of mistakes reading it, leading some critics to speculate that he had not drafted the opinion

London-listed mining company African Consolidated Resources expressed surprise Tuesday at the ruling this week by Zimbabwean High Court Judge Charles Hungwe reversing his own September decision in favor of the company in a diamond mining rights dispute with the Harare government.

Hungwe's decision drew harsh criticism, some alleging he had caved in to pressure from the government to make a 180-degree turn in the case to secure Harare's interest in the rich alluvial deposits. ACR won concessions in the field but the government pulled them in 2006 and took over Marange.

ACR shares quoted on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market fell another 16 percent on Tuesday after sliding as much as 20 percent on Monday on the news. The stock was quoted at 9.25 pence late Tuesday, well off its 52-week high of 16.96 pence.

Justice Hungwe said he reversed his ruling because the license first issued to African Consolidated Resources was granted in error because its Zimbabwe subsidiaries were not registered.

Sources present in court Monday said Hungwe seemed ill at ease delivering the ruling, noting he made a number of mistakes reading it and had to repeat himself a number of times. Some critics inferred from this that he had not drafted the ruling himself. Hungwe could not be reached for comment.

Speaking from the United Kingdom, ACR Chief Executive Andrew Cranswick said his firm intends to appeal to the Supreme Court – though he added that the company is prepared to settle with the Harare government on the long-running and tangled case.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga, who has followed the Marange situation closely, said the latest decision from Hungwe was simply shocking.