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Kimberly Process Will Travel to Zimbabwe to Certify Diamonds

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July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Kimberly Process officials will make two trips to Zimbabwe in the coming months to certify diamonds mined at the disputed Marange deposits as the country seeks to resume exports of the gems.

The World Diamond Council authorized the trips in August and September by the Kimberley Process, the body created to end the trade in diamonds used to fund conflict and war. Officials will use the first visit to assess diamonds produced May 28 to Aug. 1, and the second to study gems mined in August, Kimberley Process Chairman Boaz Hirsch said in St. Petersburg today.

The certification of diamonds from Marange would enable Zimbabwe to resume sales that were halted in May because Kimberley Process rules prohibit the trade of diamonds that it hasn’t certified. Zimbabwe has 6 million carats of diamond stockpiles “waiting to get into the market,” Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said July 14. That compares with the 18 million carats mined annually by Botswana, the world’s biggest producer.

Kimberley Process officials met members of the World Diamond Council in St. Petersburg today and discussed Zimbabwe’s efforts to comply with conditions set out by the Jerusalem-based assessor.

The southern African country is accused of abuses at Marange by New York-based Human Rights Watch, which claims the military may have killed as many as 200 informal miners working at the site. The campaign group called for a ban on Marange diamonds unless Zimbabwe adheres to Kimberley Process standards.

Conflict Diamonds

The Kimberley Process, an initiative by governments, industry and civil-society groups, runs a program to certify diamonds as “conflict-free,” according to its website. Conflict diamonds are the 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, it said.

The Zimbabwean government seized the Marange mine from U.K.-based African Consolidated Resources Plc in 2006, without giving reasons. African Consolidated is challenging the seizure in Zimbabwe’s courts.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anastasia Ustinova in St. Petersburg at austinova@bloomberg.net; Anna Shiryaevskaya in Moscow at ashiryaevska@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez in Prague jagomez@bloomberg.net.