Blood Diamonds Fields May Be Over in Zimbabwe
Kimberley Process went to Zimbabwe to investigate a diamond mining activities. The anti-blood diamond group just finished a week process analysis. The procedure recommended a immediately army removal from Marange diamond fields.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher Tiseke Kasambala said: “If this is truly the case, then that is indeed a positive statement from the Kimberly Process and was one of the key recommendations from our report we released about a week and a half ago, calling for the de-militarization of the diamond industry in Zimbabwe.”
KP is an initiative by international governments and civil societies to stem the flow of conflict diamonds. Although the full report has not been publicized, the interim report said: “There cannot be effective security where diamonds are concerned, with the involvement of the military.”
The group grew out of discussions in May 2000 in Kimberley, South Africa among interested governments, the international diamond industry and civil society, as a unique initiative to combat ‘conflict diamonds’ – rough diamonds used to finance devastating conflicts in the 1990s in some of Africa’s diamond-producing countries. The Kimberley Process is backed by the United Nations; in December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution supporting the creation of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds, renewed most recently in December 2006.
Last week the MDC criticized its own minister for making ‘inaccurate’ statements about what transpired in the Chiadzwa area. Deputy Minister of Mines, Murisi Zwizwai, said there had been no killings in the diamond fields. But his party said: “We view the remarks as premature and inaccurate in the absence of an investigation into the murky dealings in the Chiadzwa diamond fields where a lot of things happened out of the public eye. Hon Zwizwai’s claims are therefore fact-hostile and evidence-free.”
The Finance Minister Tendai Biti shocked the market last week when he announced the zimbabwen government would re-evaluate all mining contracts and initiate a “use it or lose it” policy for its mining industry.
The Mining activity has become the leading source of foreign exchange, with gold accounting for a third of exports, but political turmoil, lack of energy and unfavorable regulatory rules have led to several mines closing. The unity government has prioritized policy stability to encourage international investors to unlock funds to revive business.
Not all experts see the law negatively. Absa gold trader Byron Woods said yesterday the policy would give miners “an opportunity to grow and invest in their own mines without mediators. They no longer have to sell to the central bank, which is a good thing. And now miners can do what they have to do—mine.“
Woods said doing away with stringent laws that had crippled the industry over the years would mean that in common with other countries, Zimbabwean miners would now be expected to report to the central bank on their trading only monthly.
Big mining groups with interests in Zimbabwe include Impala Platinum Holdings ( Implats ), Anglo Platinum ( Angloplat ) and Rio Tinto.
Implats and Angloplat officials said they were not aware of Zimbabwe’s plan to recheck mining contracts, and would wait for more details before commenting.
“We are not aware of that, and that’s all we are going to say,” said Implats spokesman Rob Gilmour.
“We had frank and open discussions about Zimbabwe and this compliance with the Kimberley Process, Zimbabwe is still high on our agenda,” Bernard Esau, who currently chairs the scheme, told reporters in the Namibian capital.
The anti-blood diamond group meets government ministers, central bank officials, top police officers and travel to Marange and the nearby town of Mutare.
Andrew Brownell of Green Advocates Liberia said that the human rights violations were real, also the group had appealed to KP member governments to take action to address compliance.
“Zimbabwe is linked to human rights violations with regard to the diamond sector and this is all well documented in public reports,” he said in a interview. He will be traveling to Zimbabwe as part of the KP review team with others civil society representatives.
During the conference, Zimbabwe’s deputy mining minister Murisi Zwizwai denied again any killings by security forces in Marange. Zimbabwe’s mining ministry last week said it stood by Zwizwai’s statement, despite the fresh allegations.
The three-day Kimberley Process meeting also discussed options for further action to end smuggling of conflict gems in Ivory Coast, where gem production in Ivory Coast is increasing despite a UN ban on their export.
“The satellite images provided by the UN group show that rough diamond production is going on and increasing, and this was indicated by ground observations of the KP working group of diamond experts,” Esau said.
“We agreed to remove soldiers but it will be done in phases while proper security settings would be put in place,” Zwizwai told the paper after meeting the Kimberly Process team.
The Zimbabwe government also asked for assistance in modernising the Chiadzwa diamond mining operations in Marange, currently being conducted by the under-funded state firm Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.
Industry experts say official diamond sales account for less than 10 percent of Zimbabwe’s mineral earnings, but have the potential to join gold and platinum among the country’s main earners if the government clamps down on smuggling.
Zimbabwe’s unity government, formed by rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in February, is battling to raise $10 billion to rescue the country’s economy after years of contraction and hyperinflation.
Western donors, whose financial support is seen as key to economic recovery, remain skeptical and have demanded broad reforms and an end to rights abuses before providing aid. (Reporting by Nelson Banya, editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)