Zimbabwe Marange Diamonds Draw ‘Much’ Interest in Antwerp

The first auction of diamonds originating from Zimbabwe’s eastern Marange fields following the removal of European Union sanctions has attracted “much interest,” the Antwerp World Diamond Centre said.

The auction of stones totaling 300,000 carats closes tomorrow in the Belgian city. AWDC spokeswoman Karen Rentmeesters said details of the prices fetched by the gems are confidential.

“We can, however, tell you that much interest has been shown in this tender and the attendance numbers are very high,” Rentmeesters said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The EU in September ended sanctions on the sale of diamonds originating from Zimbabwe’s Marange fields. Advocacy groups including Ontario-based Partnership Africa Canada have accused President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party of taking about $2 billion from the fields. The government has denied any misuse of funds.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in 2009 that more than 200 illegal workers were killed in Marange as they were being driven off the site by the military. Some were shot from a helicopter, the group said, citing an unidentified eyewitness. The government has denied allegations of any human-rights abuses.

State-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. jointly owns seven ventures in the Marange district. The country is expected to mine 16.9 million carats this year, according to Mines Ministry estimates. Last year, Zimbabwe produced 8 million carats, generating $685 million.