Zim diamonds certified amid controversy

The Kimberley Process (KP), an international diamond trade watchdog, has cleared diamonds from the Chiadzwa fields for export, amid accusations the current KP chair did so unilaterally.

KP chairperson Mathieu Yamba, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been accused by the KP Civil Society Coalition of “unilaterally” making the decision. The United States has also raised concerns.

However, Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu on Tuesday dismissed the protests as politically-motivated.

He said: “The decision has been made and that is the decision that is binding,” Mpofu said.

“It is clear that they are no longer pursuing a KP agenda, but a political one. We have always suspected that. We have fully complied with the KP requirements and they have now run out of excuses to stop us from selling our diamonds. They are now resorting to flimsy reasons to try and frustrate us.

“We are going to abide by the KP decision. When Israel was chairing, it used to pass decisions, but when an African country is now chairing they do not want it to do the same. It shows they do not respect African countries.”

This week Yamba wrote to KP participants: “With immediate effect, Zimbabwe is hereby authorised to resume exports from the compliant mining operations of Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Mining. The KP monitor will verify as part of his regular visits to Marange the continued compliance of the producing mines including access to mine level data.”

The letter is dated March 19, 2011.

Yamba said the exports would include the stockpile of diamonds held from the two concessions as well as current production.

He did not authorise exports of diamonds mined between 2007 and 2009, held by various other sources.

Canadile Mining and Mbada Diamonds are in joint ventures with the state’s Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) to mine diamonds from Chiadzwa.

Diamond sources said the US had objected to the decision and sent a note to the KP authorities in India and the United Arab Emirates arguing that it would view any shipments proceeding as a result of the decision as non-compliant.

But the KP Civil Society Coalition said it was disappointed by the certification of Zimbabwe’s diamonds.

“The Civil Society Coalition, like a growing list of KP countries and industry representatives, is calling the chair to reconsider his decision,” the coalition said on Tuesday.

“This unilateral decision is beyond the chair’s remit and sets a dangerous precedent for what is supposed to be a consensus-based organisation. It contravenes several KP protocols (including those governing the chair’s powers) and invalidates pre-existing agreements aimed at regularising mining activity in Marange.”

The coalition said it was gravely concerned by the lack of consultation by the new KP chairperson.

“At no time were we consulted. As one of the three pillars of the KP, this is unacceptable.
This decision has grave ramifications for efforts to tackle illegality and violence in Marange. It creates a situation where Marange exports can take place with no conditionality whatsoever, which is worse than exports taking place under a deal which we consider weak, but that nonetheless provides some kind of framework,” said the coalition.

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