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Friday, June 24, 2011

Second update 6/25/11: Kimberley Process Allows Zimbabwe to Sell Diamonds from Marange, Or Did it?

Miners at the Marange diamond fields.

The Kimberley Process ended its ban of Zimbabwe diamonds from the controversial Manage diamond fields— which has been the source of murders, human rights abuses and diamond smuggling—according to media reports.It is also the source of what is believed by many to be the largest deposit of diamonds in the world.

Update, 6/24/11, 6:30 p.m. EDT: Apparently these reports may have been issued too soon. After several Twitter exchanges with jewelry industry reporters Michelle Graff of National Jeweler and Rob Bates of JCK, apparently this may not the case. Please read on.

Zimbabwe authorities say the violence and smuggling no longer exists. Human rights group say violence and smuggling continue under the country's military, which is tied to the Zimbabwe ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union, Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), led by Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.

Mathieu Yamba, the current Kimberley Process chairman told reporters of the decision following a closed-meeting of the organization Thursday in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Update, 6/24/11, 6:30 p.m. EDT: Yamba did say that the Kimberley Process approved mining in the Mbada and Kanadai mines in the Marange region and that exports from Zimbabwe’s Marange fields will be monitored by two representatives of the Kimberley Process until the organization’s next meeting, as confirmed by media reports. However, as he has done in the past, Yamba gave the approval without the consensus of Kimberley Process members that is needed to approve such a measure.

The Kimberley Process is made up of diamond industry representatives, government officials from 75 countries and non-governmental organizations. The Kimberley Process is charged with preventing trade in illicit diamonds—commonly called “blood” or “conflict” diamonds, depending on whether you have a vested interest in the diamond industry. Illicit diamonds under the organization’s mandate are the result of diamonds being used to fund brutal civil wars where innocent people are being killed and mutilated by those involved in these conflicts.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as “conflict-free.”

Update, 6/24/11, 6:30 p.m. EDT: The U.S. Department of State issued a statement saying that there is no consensus among members on the Zimbabwe issue.

"Contrary to some reporting, the Kinshasa Intersessional did not reach a consensus text. The Chair has circulated a text to participants which did not attract consensus," the statement read. "We believe that work toward a solution must continue, and that until consensus is reached, exports from Marange should not proceed."

As reported Thursday, the civil society coalition, which includes Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada, reportedly walked out of the meeting charging that the KPCS is not meeting its most basic commitments to prevent diamonds from fueling violence and human rights violations, and to provide guarantees to consumers that they are buying clean diamonds.

For its part, Zimbabwe has said it will sell diamonds from Marange with or without KP approval and countries, including China and South Africa, said they will accept their diamonds. There are several other countries willing to do the same.

So regardless of what the KP does, Zimbabwe will sell its diamonds and countries will accept them while NGOs and other countries will protest. So after two days of meetings, nothing has changed.

Here are links to reports on the issue from National Jeweler and JCK.

Update 6/25/11, 6:10 p.m.: Here is a link to a Voice of America story that attempts to explain further what happened at the closed-door meeting.  VOC has consistently provided the most impressive coverage of this long-running issue.

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