Harare, Zimbabwe — MININGREVIEW.COM — 28 May 2010 – The government of Zimbabwe has banned all diamond exports, including those from a Rio Tinto unit, until gemstones from its controversial Marange fields have been certified by industry regulators.
Mines minister Obert Mpofu accused Western countries of using the Kimberley Process certification scheme, which regulates the global diamond trade, to ban Zimbabwe from benefiting from diamonds.
“It is true that the government has, with immediate effect, suspended all diamond exports,” Mpofu told Reuters. He said the ban affected Rio Tinto’s Murowa mine, which produced 124 000 carats last year, and privately owned River Ranch, both of which are certified by the Kimberley Process.
Zimbabwe has been waiting for the certification of its Marange diamonds, and yesterday the Kimberley Process monitor, Abbey Chikane, said he would recommend that Zimbabwe be allowed to export the precious stones.
Chikane told reporters Zimbabwe’s lawmakers wanted the army to remain in Marange until security was improved in the area, but added that the army might need training to meet industry standards.
Rights groups accuse Zimbabwe’s security forces of widespread atrocities in the poorly secured diamond fields in the eastern part of the country, and have been pushing for a ban on the stones.
“As government, we are saying if the ban is targeted at Zimbabwe, it should apply to all diamond producers, and not be done on a selective basis,” Mpofu said.
“We are very clear that this issue is highly politicised and there are known Western countries behind this ban,” he accused.
Two South African companies, Grandwell Holdings and Core Mining, are mining diamonds in a 50-50 joint venture with the government in Marange. Authorities say they have stockpiled more than 2 million carats since the start of the year and are awaiting certification for export.
Mpofu said earlier that Zimbabwe would “ensure we will sell our diamonds, with or without the Kimberley Process.”