Watchdog approves Zimbabwe diamond sales

The Kimberley Process watchdog on Tuesday authorised the resumption of diamond sales from two mining sites in Marange, Zimbabwe where alleged rights violations took place, a document obtained by Agence France-Presse in Kinshasa said.

A proposal to this effect by the president of the Kimberley Process (KP), set up to prevent trade in so-called “blood diamonds”, had been signed by a European delegation and Zimbabwe’s mining minister, a copy obtained by AFP showed.

Diamonds were discovered in Marange in 2006, drawing thousands of small-time miners hoping to get rich quick from what had been termed Africa’s biggest diamond find in decades.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s army cleared the area in late 2008 when Human Rights Watch said more than 200 people were killed.

In June, the KP approved a provisional export of rough diamonds from Marange by two companies—a decision supported by China and India but opposed by Western nations, rights groups and the industry.

Zimbabwe conducted a KP-monitored sale last year although the move was opposed by countries such as Canada and the United States. It raised $100-million, according to government figures, after selling 400 000 carats.

Then in August, the BBC said it had uncovered a camp run by Zimbabwean security forces where civilians were forced to dig for diamonds and tortured in the diamond-rich Marange area in the country’s east.

The government dismissed the claims as “ridiculous”.

The new authorisation for the Marange Resources and Mbada mines would take “immediate effect” and remain effective until a KP meeting next year.

It said Zimbabwe would have to report on the identity of mine investors and steps taken to combat illegal mining and trafficking, said the document.

Harare is said to have stockpiled gems now estimated to be worth up to $5.0-billion.—Sapa-AFP

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