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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Zimbabwe to Sell Its Marange Diamonds

Thankful Musukutwa (left) and Zimbabwe Mining Minister Obert Mpofu Photo from the Diamond Guru blog

In a move that could wreak havoc on the diamond and jewelry industries, the government of Zimbabwe said it will sell diamonds from its controversial Marange fields, which has been the scene of past human rights abuses and, according to several organizations, where these violations still occur. The government has denied those allegations.

Responding to questions from a visiting Norwegian delegation, Thankful Musukutwa, Zimbabwe Mines and Mining Development Secretary, said Zimbabwe will not be stopped from trading its diamonds by Non-Governmental Organizations and “hostile” nations, according to a report in the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

The story headline is a quote presumably from Musukutwa that states, “We won’t be stopped from selling diamonds.”

“We have had a few problems with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and we have gone over them. We have worked our way up and we are very compliant,” Musukutwa reportedly said, according to the report. “We have resolved that we are going to sell our diamonds and that is what we are going to do. We feel we are compliant and have done more than other countries.”

Beginning in 2008, the Zimbabwe army took over the Marange fields, considered by many to be one of the largest diamond deposits in the world, forcing out tens of thousands of small-scale miners. These miners were massacred by soldiers and villagers have been beaten, raped and forced to work in the mines. The human rights abuses led to Zimbabwe to being suspended from the KP.

The KP voted to temporarily reinstate Zimbabwe in July, allowing two supervised exports of rough diamond from Marange held in August and September. However, the KP in November, based on continued reports of human rights abuses, failed to reach an agreement on whether Zimbabwe will be able to sell diamonds through the organization’s certification scheme, a system that tracks diamond sales from the mine to the market, which has led to a ban diamonds from the Marange field.

Musukutwa charged that the stalemate is the result of the Kimberley Process engaging in politics. He said the organization should stick to its mandate of preventing the trade of “blood” or “conflict” diamonds—terms used to describe diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord's activity.

The Norwegian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ingrid Fiskaa, according to the report. When pressed on human rights abuses, Musukutwa questioned her motives. He then said these charges are from outsiders, such as non-governmental organizations and other countries. The newspaper said Fiskaa wasn’t clear about the visit but it charged that it is “reliably informed” that the group also intends to meet some NGOs.

“We run the place and we are there all the time,” Musukutwa said. “We are surprised that we get foreign people like you who tell us there are human rights abuses.”