/ 1 July 2010

Zimbabwe to resume diamond sales, says official

Zimbabwe’s mining minister says the country will go ahead and sell its controversy-plagued diamonds without approval from the world diamond control body.

Obert Mpofu says Zimbabwe is preparing a working plan with the state Minerals Marketing Corporation to release diamonds from eastern Zimbabwe onto the world market, lifting a three-month ban.

The Kimberly Process, regulator of world diamond sales, ended a meeting June 24 in Israel in deadlock over allegations of corruption, killings and human rights violations in Zimbabwe’s eastern Marange diamond fields, said to be potentially one of the world’s largest deposits.

Mpofu said on Wednesday the world body’s regional diamond monitor reported Zimbabwe met the organisation’s “minimum requirements” for diamond mining and “so now everything is in place to resume the sales.”

A report by KP investigator Abbey Chikane, which was presented at the conference, argued that President Robert Mugabe’s government had met the global diamond regulator’s criteria in respect of the Marange diamond fields.

“While the majority of countries participating in the Kimberley Process expressed support for Chikane’s submission, a number of countries and civil society participants objected to the concept that Zimbabwe would immediately commence exporting diamonds from Marange,” a conference statement said.

Beatings and other abuses
Human rights groups have called for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Kimberley Process, saying it reneged on a promise made last year to improve conditions at its Marange fields.

Accreditation of Marange’s production was suspended in November after Kimberley investigators documented forced labour, beatings and other abuses by the military against civilians working in the diamond fields. — Sapa