RAPAPORT… The former operators of the River Ranch diamond mine in Zimbabwe, Bubye Minerals, criticized the recent Kimberley Process review of that country saying the Kimberley team intentionally ignored requests for a meeting.
In a letter sent to Kimberley Process (KP) chairman Karel Kovanda (scroll to the end of this story to read two letters,) Bubye, which claims ownership of River Ranch and is awaiting the outcome of court proceedings, said there is considerable evidence that stones mined at River Ranch have been smuggled out of Zimbabwe and mixed with KP certificates in neighboring countries. The mine’s current owners, River Ranch Limited, have long denied these claims to Rapaport News and other organizations.
Bubye claimed it was “denied the right to meet the review team in particularly aggressive terms.”
Sergei Oulin, head of the review team to Zimbabwe, told Rapaport News that the KP received the letters but did not meet with Bubye as such a meeting would have extended beyond the mandate of the visit. The KP maintained that it would not get involved in the dispute between the parties, he explained.
Meanwhile, the review visit, which took place at the beginning of June, included a visit to River Ranch, located in Beitbridge.
River Ranch Limited’s legal advisor George Smith told Rapaport News that the company chartered a plane to bring three of the KP team members to the mine. “They seemed to be impressed and satisfied by the security measures in place,” he said of the visit.
The KP is currently in the process of compiling its report on the visit, which will then be forwarded to Zimbabwe for a response before being made public.
The report is expected to be published around the beginning of August.
Letter from Bubye Minerals to Karel Kovanda dated June 21, 2007
Dear Mr. Kovanda
RE: KP REVIEW TEAM
We refer to your letter dated 25th May 2007, advising us of the finalization of the plans for the KP Review Team. Unfortunately, this letter only reached us on the 19th June instant, having been posted in Mount Pleasant; Harare on 9th June instant, that is one day after the Review Team left Zimbabwe (without according us the courtesy of an interview). We are left in little doubt that this was an intentional oversight, as Mr. Oullin denied us the right to meet the Review Team in particularly aggressive terms.
We are also disturbed by your lack of acknowledgement and response to our letter dated 7th June 2007 on this very topic. We hereby attach a repeat copy and again urge you to respond to the issues raised in a fair and transparent manner, for the benefit of all parties. This kind of behavior seems greatly at odds with the standards of governance expected by the world at large of organizations such as this one, which represents a product that signifies lasting trust and honour.
Letter from Bubye Minerals to Karel Kovanda dated June 7, 2007
Dear Mr. Kovanda
Re: Kimberley Process Plenary Session
We are aware that there is a Plenary Session for participants of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme scheduled within the next week. Accordingly, we ask you to advise us before this event whether Zimbabwe (in general) and River Ranch Mine (in particular) is tabled on the agenda for discussion at this forum. This request is necessitated by the absolute and deliberate denial of access for Bubye Minerals (Private) Limited to the Review Team that very recently visited Zimbabwe. Despite our persistent and repeated efforts to engage with the team members by all of email, letter, and telephone, all such efforts were rebuffed. Sergey Oulin stated the reasons as being:
1. How did you get this number to phone me?
2. We have no involvement in property issues!
3. The team had a “Government controlled mandate”.
4. The team had a “very busy schedule”.
5. The team was “warned that we would try to make contact with them and had been advised not to speak to us”. By whom he did not say.
The “independent” journalist, Christine Gordon, attached to the team, also indicated her inability to discuss any matters relating to Bubye Minerals (Private) Limited, saying that “she can’t talk about this”. She, however, did inadvertently give us some interesting insights. Ms. Gordon advised us that the Team had a very tight brief, in that it was mandated only to review any evidence that Zimbabwe is a trade center for conflict diamonds. Other team members we spoke to also were evasive and disinterested. This extremely narrow interpretation of the Kimberley Process provisions and scope defies the actual working principles as set down in the Charter document.
The Certification Scheme relies upon an unbroken chain of handling, from original producer through the sales agent to the end customer. Only the Kimberley Process country representative can issue the actual certificate, which guarantees provenance to the buyer, to the original producer. It must accompany the stones (or a parcel thereof) across borders into the territory of another participant. There is considerable evidence (and we hold documentary proof thereof) that stones from our mine under the unlawful operation of an illegally constituted Board of Directors t/a River Ranch Limited have been smuggled out of Zimbabwe for sale. We can further prove that no Kimberley Process Certificate has accompanied these shipments. This is a clear violation of the Scheme, and yet the Review Team apparently has no mandate to investigate it.
Bubye Minerals (Private) Limited and its’ Directors have no wish to see Zimbabwe as a whole penalised for the activities of a rogue few. Our complaint to the Kimberley Process authorities was very specific. We did not request that our nation be reviewed, only that the entity calling itself River Ranch Limited be probed. We know that our nation needs the revenue from diamond mining to fund essential imports of fuel, electricity, medicines, and food. We, nevertheless, point out that such revenues, illicitly earned by illegal exports, benefit only the company shareholders and not the nation as a whole.
We again list the compelling reasons why the Kimberley Process Chair has, to date, failed in this process:
1. The illegally constituted Board of Directors T/A River Ranch Limited acquired possession of the mine by means of armed invasion, and not by court-sanctioned acquisition. These Directors are mining and extracting diamonds without clear title, in contravention of the Mines and Minerals Act of Zimbabwe; and therefore those diamonds are an illegal stockpile in unauthorized hands.
2. The Kimberley Process “bolts onto” the national legislation of its participants. The process accepts participants only after reviewing their mining legislation for effectiveness. This legislation guarantees the sanctity of ownership to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and the participant relies upon it when seeking entry to the process. If the rule of law fails, or national legislation is ignored, how does the Kimberley Process deal with the subsequent breach of integrity to the Process? We have sought relief from the Supreme Court, in respect of our claims, however it appears you wish to sanctify the sale of our stolen Diamonds whilst still sub judice.
3. The Kimberley Process claims in this instance that it has no mandate to review property/ ownership issues, although this is clearly a mandatory entry requirement for participants to the scheme. Will this become the norm worldwide, thus allowing vast quantities of illegitimate product to enter the global market assisted by the Kimberley Process?
4. The Zimbabwe country representative for the process is also the Minister of Mines, whose duty it is to uphold the law. This same man has the power to set the Government mandate for the Review Team, which must (in part) probe his own actions. The Minister of Mines has actively colluded with these illegitimate Directors of the Company T/A River Ranch Limited by unlawfully transferring to them Special Grant 1278, for which action he must answer Contempt of Court charges arising from High Court case number HC823/ 07. Is the Kimberley Process satisfied that its representative is adequately positioned to represent the integrity of the process to the worldwide public? You appear to sanction by your silence, the breach of the rule of law in Zimbabwe, in respect of our case.
5. More importantly, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, as represented by the current chair, has failed to address any of our concerns directly, by either interview or correspondence. The Kimberley Process refuses to answer our legitimate enquiries as to its position on several critical issues that go to the heart of governance.
The Kimberley Process Review Team has equally failed so far, for the following reasons:
1. The Team has carried out its inspection in the company of and hosted by those very persons who stole our mine.
2. The Team spent one day at River Ranch Mine. This is not sufficient time to conduct a proper technical audit.
3. The Team has denied Bubye Minerals (Private) Limited equal access, and therefore appears biased or corrupt.
4. The Team has failed to investigate or take cognizance of human rights violations perpetrated upon the Directors of Bubye Minerals (Private) Limited by way of their unlawful arrest and imprisonment for three days, the timing of which was suspicious, to say the least.
We accordingly ask that you respond formally and directly to the issues raised in this correspondence, failing which we shall be obliged to seek another platform. As this will, no doubt, be detrimental to all of us from a progress and reputation standpoint, we urge you to enter meaningful dialogue with us even at this very belated juncture.