Zimbabwe exported diamonds worth $361.1 million last year according to the central bank governor Gideon Gono. This was a drastic improvement from 2009 when it exported diamonds valued at $37.4 million.
The bulk of the diamonds were exported in December when the country shipped out diamonds valued at $188.9 million.
Zimbabwe has at least five operational diamonds mines, River Ranch in Beitbridge, Rio Tinto-owned Murowa in Zvishavane and thee mines, Mbada, Marange and Chinese-owned Ainjin in Marange.
Only River Ranch and Murowa are allowed to freely export their diamonds as they have Kimberley Process Certification Scheme clearance. All the diamonds in Marange are still considered “blood diamonds” and are awaiting KP approval.
Outgoing KP chairman Boaz Hirsch of Israel presented a panel-beaten agreement which would have allowed the Marange Mines to export their diamonds provided they met certain conditions, but this decision was reversed by new Chairman Mathieu Yamba Lapfa Lampang of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Although Yamba had given Hirsch time to wind up the Zimbabwe issue three weeks into his term and Hirsch got written consent to allow Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds, Yamba wrote to the same members on February 4 saying one could not consider at this stage that consensus had been reached because some countries had expressed reservations on the draft.
Yamba said he had therefore launched discussions around the draft so that he could come up with something that would be acceptable to all and would ensure Zimbabwe resumed exports.
While this appeared to be a reversal of the previous ruling which would have allowed Zimbabwe to export its diamonds and also release thousands of diamonds that are locked up in warehouses, Yamba’s action is reported to have the blessing of Zimbabwe.
Reports say Zimbabwe does not want to sell its diamonds under any restrictive conditions like ensuring that the Marange area is violence free. It wants an unconditional agreement to sell its diamonds.
But those in the diamond industry are worried that Zimbabwe is taking this route so that it can continue to smuggle its diamonds out and sell them to the public. It makes more money this way and no one knows how many diamonds it is selling.
Right now revenue from diamonds estimated at $100 million is reportedly missing.
Zimbabwe’s diamond reserves will make it one of the world’s leading producers and cutters from Surat had hoped that Marange could come to their rescue. It was expected to create some 250 000 jobs in Surat alone if it received an adequate supply of diamonds from Marange.