THE Dunblane-based mineral developer, Mr Ian Wilson, confirmed yesterday he is to buy the 9400-acre Durness Estate from its mysterious owners, the Liechtenstein-registered Vibel SA.

Mr Wilson, who also has a lease of the mineral rights at the proposed superquarry site at Lingerbay in the south of Harris, has plans for a more modest development at Loch Eriboll, near Durness. He has been acting as factor for Vibel in Durness.

A hearing of the Scottish Land Court due tomorrow, which a crofter had planned to use to try to establish who exactly is behind Vibel SA, has been cancelled.

Mr Hugh MacLellan has been trying to buy his croft at Laid in Sutherland for almost two years, but Vibel SA had opposed the move. They were willing to let him buy his house and garden, but were concerned that sale of the croftland could jeopardise potential mineral developments at Loch Eriboll.

The dispute was due to be heard in Laid tomorrow but on Friday Mr MacLellan heard that the estate was now agreeing to his demands.

Last night he was delighted he had got his croft, but disappointed that the hearing was no longer necessary. ''I wanted to find out more about Vibel.''

It is just the latest twist in a long tale of eccentric management by Vibel SA, which has frustrated many crofters' aspirations.No-one remembered any representative from Vibel visiting the estate until last year, when Mr Wilson appeared to collect seven years' worth of rent.

Yesterday, when asked if he now knew the identity of Vibel's owners, Mr Wilson said: ''They have no wish to go public in any shape or form. They are getting phased out of the picture, end of story.''