This is a pretty momentous occasion — after 10 years the Richtersveld land claim has been settled in favour the Richtersveld community.

The restoration of the land was part of a settlement agreement confirmed by Land Claims Court Judge Antonie Gildenhuys, sitting in Cape Town.

His order, handed down just after 4pm, ended a decade-long legal battle that went all the way to the Constitutional Court.

"I am overwhelmed with joy. I can't hold back my tears," said community leader Willem Diergaardt afterwards, as other Richtersvelders sang and hugged each other around him.

"This is a big moment in the history of the Richtersveld and of South Africa ... To wait 80 years for your land is not easy."

The order came after the state, community representatives and a dissident Richtersveld Action Committee reached agreement on Monday on the terms of a settlement.

The community in 1998 lodged its claim to the land, which included compensation for diamonds extracted from it since the 1920s.

The settlement will see the state hand over to the community 194 600ha, including an 84 000ha coastal strip of diamond-bearing land currently being mined by the ailing state-owned Alexkor.

The state will make an "extraordinary reparation payment" of R190-million to a community-owned investment company, a R50-million development grant and also transfer Alexkor's farming operations to the community.

Alexkor and the community will enter into a joint mining venture, in which Alexkor will hold a 51% interest, to which the state will contribute up to R200-million in capitalisation.

The mine-owned town of Alexander Bay will be transferred to the community, and Alexkor will pay R45-million to continue housing its staff there for the next decade.

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