Zimbabwe was on Tuesday allowed to sell rough diamonds from Marange’s two diamond companies Mbada and Marange Resources with immediate effect.
The diamond regulatory body, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme Plenary in Kinshasa also agreed that other mining operations in the Marange diamond fields could export their diamonds following verification of their compliance with KPCS minimum requirements by the KP Monitoring Team which will receive full access to the mining sites.
The KP monitoring team will visit Zimbabwe within 14 days to examine whether Anjin, a third mining company in Marange, is KP compliant and can be permitted to export diamonds. The team will pay similar visits to any other new mine within 14 days of receiving an invitation.
Zimbabwe has been battling for two years to legally sell its diamonds amid strong opposition mainly from Western countries and non-governmental organisations that insisted the country should not be allowed to sell the diamonds because of human rights violations in Marange.
Zimbabwe and African diamond producers argued that Zimbabwe had met the minimum requirements but was being prevented from selling its diamonds to protect some Western owned diamond mining companies.
The European Union today welcomed the agreement as a way forward. The World Diamond Council also welcomed the move.
“This is a real milestone, and demonstrates categorically that the Kimberley Process provides the framework through which the integrity of the rough diamond chain of distribution can be protected, while at the same time enabling producing countries gain benefit from their natural resources,” World Diamond Council president Eli Izhakoff said in Kinshasa.
“Congratulations and thanks are due to the European Union, for the critical role it played in proposing the agreement and bringing it to fruition. Credit also is due to Zimbabwe, the African nations led by the South Africa, the United States, and a host of individuals and delegates who put in long hours in negotiating the arrangement, which has escaped us for more than two years. It has been a long time in coming, and I fervently hope that it allows us to move both the KP and the industry forward.”
Non-governmental organisations that were fighting against the legalisation of the sale of Marange diamonds were not amused by the new move. They argued that the Kimberley Process had thrown away its main point of leverage over the Zimbabwean government by allowing it to export diamonds from Marange without first fulfilling previous commitments to reform its diamond trade.
“The Kimberley Process has effectively given up on Zimbabwe,” said Alfred Brownell, President of Green Advocates, Liberia. “KP member governments and the diamond industry seem ready to turn their back on the interests of Zimbabwe’s citizens, the public good and the principles on which the Kimberley Process was founded.”
“It’s a pure business deal that leaves out key concerns of Zimbabwe’s civil society: that is protection of the locals from human rights abuses in and around Marange and ensuring that Marange diamonds are properly accounted for, for the benefit of the suffering Zimbabwean people,” Farai Maguwu said.
“This deal only reinforces the perception that there is no limit to how far the KP is prepared to go in lowering the ethical bar on Marange,” said Shamiso Mtisi, Coordinator of the Local Focal Point and Environmental Lawyer at the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association.
“The integrity of the entire clean diamond supply chain is on the line,” said Alan Martin, Research Director of Partnership Africa Canada. “How can consumers buy a diamond this Christmas with any confidence that they are not buying a Marange diamond mined in unquestionable violence? How can industry give any assurances that they will be able to separate these diamonds from the legitimate diamond supply chain?”