Kimberley Process May Make Decision on Zimbabwean Diamond Exports Tomorrow

The Kimberley Process, the global body that monitors sales of so-called conflict diamonds, may decide tomorrow whether Zimbabwe can export gems from its Marange diamond fields, Chairman Boaz Hirsch said.

The announcement will follow discussions from Nov. 1 to Nov. 4 on Zimbabwe’s compliance with Kimberley Process demands, Hirsch said today in an interview in Jerusalem, where a report by a review commission sent to the southern African country earlier this year is being debated.

“The report has found Zimbabwe to be compliant in certain areas,” said Hirsch. “In other areas, though progress was registered, there wasn’t yet full compliance. It is still too early to say” what action may be taken.

Foreign and domestic human-rights organizations have criticized Zimbabwe for violence against civilians in the Marange diamond fields of eastern Zimbabwe. The criticism led to investigations by the Kimberley Process over the past year.

Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group, alleged in June 2009 that Zimbabwe’s military may have killed as many as 200 informal miners working at Marange. The group had called for a ban on Marange diamonds unless Zimbabwe adheres to Kimberley Process standards.

Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, who is attending the Kimberley Process meeting in Israel, denied there were any remaining areas of non-compliance.

“We have gone beyond the minimum requirements even more than some other countries,” he said in an interview. “We are happy with the Kimberley Process report and are confident that Zimbabwe is going to be a major compliant player in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.”

Conflict Diamonds

The Kimberley Process is an initiative by governments, industry and civil-society groups to certify diamonds as “conflict-free,” according to its website. Conflict diamonds are rough gems that have been traded by rebel movements to finance wars against governments, including those in Angola, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.

Diamonds from the Marange fields were sold at auction in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, with Kimberley Process certification for the first time on Aug. 12.

Mpofu said in August Marange is the richest diamond field found in a century and “has the potential to raise as much as half of Zimbabwe’s budget.”

Zimbabwe may mine 40 million carats of diamonds annually within three years, the state-controlled Herald reported on Oct. 18, citing Mpofu. Botswana, the world’s biggest diamond producer, expects gem production to total 24 million carats this year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Gwen Ackerman at gackerman@bloomberg.net; Brian Latham in Durban at blatham@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net; Peter Hirschberg in Jerusalem at phirschberg@bloomberg.net.

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