RAPAPORT… Just as the Kimberley Process inspection team arrived in Zimbabwe, a government official warned that the disputed River Ranch diamond mine is susceptible to smuggling.
Local newspaper The Financial Gazette reported that Beitbridge Senator Tambudzani Mohadi, in whose district River Ranch is located, said on May 30, 2007 that the mine has not been submitting production records to the government as required by law and that this lack of disclosure made smuggling possible.
“President Sir, River Ranch mine is found in my constituency and there is a legal wrangle on the ownership of this mine,” the Gazette quoted Mohadi as saying. “There is mining taking place, but there are no records of diamond production being submitted to the Ministry of Mines. This creates room for smuggling.”
Mohadi reportedly made her remarks during a debate in the senate on the fourth report of the parliamentary portfolio committee on mines, energy, environment and tourism, on gold and diamond mining.
The senator’s caution comes two months after allegations were made that United Nations Development Program vehicles were being used to smuggle diamonds from the mine to South Africa.
In addition, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe recentlty estimated that the country loses revenue of about $50 million per week from diamond and gold smuggling.
It was in this atmosphere, and amidst increasing pressure from the international community for the KP to act on Zimbabwe, that the review team arrived in the country May 29 for its 5-day review of the country’s diamond sector.
The team, led by the Russian Federation, will assess the implementation of Kimberley Process rules in Zimbabwe, the KP stated in a May 31 announcement. None of its members could be reached in time for this report.
Meanwhile, Mohadi’s words once again brought River Ranch into the spotlight as legal proceedings continue for ownership of the mine. The long running dispute led to the arrest last week of Bubye Minerals directors Adele and Michael Farquhar, who are due to appear in court next week to face charges of stripping the mine. Bubye Minerals is also currently preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court of a previous High Court ruling which granted current occupants River Ranch Limited ownership of the mine.
While legal proceedings continue, River Ranch Limited has been unable to sell its diamonds though mining presumed at the mine a year ago.
River Ranch Limited legal advisor George Smith recently told Rapaport News that he was confident the mine was operating in compliance with the KP requirements and that when the KP review team arrives at the mine they would find it “squeaky clean.”