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Watchdog approves Zimbabwe diamond sales

KINSHASA — 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.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu in Jerusalem for a meeting on diamonds several months ago
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu in Jerusalem for a meeting on diamonds several months ago

The World Diamond Council which monitors compliance with the Kimberly Process (KP), set up to prevent trade in so-called “blood diamonds”, said in a statement that the agreement “will enable the immediate export of rough diamonds from two KP-compliant operations in the Marange region.”

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 says more than 200 people were killed.

The agreement reached in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, “is a real milestone”, the council’s president, Eli Izhakoff said in the statement. Under the terms of the deal, Zimbabwe will have to consistently share data with KP monitoring staff, including on the identity of mine investors and steps taken to combat illegal mining and trafficking.

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Civil society representatives will also have access to the area to independently verify mining activity, the statement said. 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 dollars, 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 deal finalised Tuesday after negotiations involving the council, Zimbabwe, the European Union, South Africa and the United States “will remain under constant review”, and is effective until a KP meeting next year, the statement said. Harare is said to have stockpiled gems now estimated to be worth up to $5.0 billion (3.5 billion euros). AFP