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Saturday, February 12, 2011

De Beers Issues Kimberley Process Support Statement

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme received an important statement of encouragement by the world’s largest diamond company.

The De Beers Group reiterated its support in the Kimberley Process—a global effort to end the trade of “blood” or “conflict” diamonds—in a statement at the end of its annual financial report Friday. The international organization of diamond industry representatives and non-governmental organizations has come under a great deal of criticism (including from this publication) in its handling of the situation at the controversial Marange diamond field in Zimbabwe.

“De Beers is committed to the highest ethical and environmental standards so that consumers can be proud of the diamonds that they own and wear,” the diamond giant said in its statement. “Furthermore, the DTC (Diamond Trading Company) has offered guidance to its sightholders on the identification of potentially illegal and unethical exports from Zimbabwe’s Marange region. While De Beers has no mining interests in Zimbabwe, the group supports the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Zimbabwe and the Kimberley Process Chair.”

The Marange diamond field, which many say may contain the largest deposit of diamonds in the world, has been the scene of murders and other human rights abuses by Robert Mugabe’s government and its military. The Zimbabwe government say those abuses have been settled but human rights advocates say that these abuses continue; that money from mines is being used to finance the ruling party’s operations, including upcoming elections; and diamond smuggling is rampant.

The human rights abuses eventually led to Zimbabwe's suspension from the Kimberley Process. The KP voted to reinstate Zimbabwe in July, 2010, allowing two supervised exports of rough diamond from the Marange production in August and September. The date of the second sale was changed and the sale was held without public knowledge.

The issue of reinstating Zimbabwe into the KP Certification Process was the main item on the agenda when the organization met in November, 2010 in Jerusalem. After four days of closed door meetings, participants failed to reach a conclusion. The issue is still unresolved with communications being issued among KP participants and very little information being presented to the public.

For its part, Zimbabwe government officials insist that it is been approved to sell diamonds from Marange through the KP certification scheme. In addition, it has made statements that if the organization refuses to allow it to sell its diamonds, it will do so anyway, thus, possibly flooding the market with diamonds and reducing their value.

Meanwhile, a variety of organizations have already either banned its members from dealing in diamonds from Marange or have encouraged their members not to do so, including the Responsible Jewellery Council, RapNet, and MasterCut and the Company of Masters Jewellers in the U.K.

You can read about this issue on this blog by doing a search for “Kimberley Process” or “Zimbabwe.”

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