Zimbabwe to Sell Diamonds from Controversial Mine

Posted November 1st, 2011 at 6:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Zimbabwe has reached an agreement to sell diamonds mined from the country’s controversial Marange fields.

The World Diamond Council says the deal was reached Tuesday at a meeting in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. It was ratified by members of the Kimberley Process, a system to prevent so-called “blood diamonds” from reaching international markets.

The agreement allows two Marange operations to sell diamonds on the international market. A third field, run by Chinese miner Angin, will be allowed to resume sales following verification by Kimberley monitors.

Human rights groups have accused Zimbabwe of deploying its military in the Marange fields and killing and torturing civilians working there. There have also been allegations of smuggling and skimming of revenue by those close to President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told VOA that Harare is committed to upholding Kimberley Process requirements “in a way that has never been seen before.”

However, activists on the issue tell VOA they are not happy with Tuesday’s deal.

One activist, Shamiso Mtisi, said the agreement removes a “local focal point” that would have pushed Zimbabwe’s government for openness and transparency in the production and marketing of Marange gems.

The United States also opposed the decision to resume the sale of Marange diamonds. Brad Brooks-Rubin, the State Department Special Advisor for Conflict Diamonds, told VOA in an interview the U.S. had abstained from the vote, citing concerns over the situation in Zimbabwe. But Brooks-Rubin said the U.S. chose not to block the agreement, because it believed the issue had become a “stalemate” stopping the Kimberley Process from moving forward.

A different U.S. official says that as part of the deal that led to Tuesday’s agreement, the United States will succeed the Democratic Republic of Congo as Kimberley Process chair as of January. However, Brooks-Rubin said there has been no decision yet on who will be the next chair of the Kimberly Process.