Mpofu Vows Unconditional Sale of Marange Rough

140 95 Rapaport News

RAPAPORT… Zimbabwe’s mines minister Obert Mpofu told the Kimberley Process plenary on Monday that his country will export its diamonds regardless of the outcome of the governing body’s discussions underway in Jerusalem this week.

“Zimbabwe will immediately proceed with the sale of all stockpiled diamonds and continue with the sale of all diamonds mined in Zimbabwe on an ongoing basis, with no conditions,” Mpofu said.

The minister criticized the lack of recommendations offered  by a recent Kimberley Process review mission in relation to exporting Zimbabwe’s stockpile of diamonds mined at the Marange  between November 2009 and May 28, 2010. The Kimberley Process allowed limited sales of Marange diamonds mined after May,  in July and August, but had placed a hold on the sale of rough  mined prior to May 28.  

Mpofu stressed that Zimbabwe refused to be drawn into a debate over whether or not Zimbabwe should export its current production and stockpile.

The Kimberley Process review team, which visited Zimbabwe in August, finalized its report on Friday just in time for the plenary meeting this week. 

The , obtained by Rapaport News, recommended that Zimbabwe’s planned sale of existing rough stockpile should depend upon the progress made in regard to the implementation of the joint working plan. The review mission was of the opinion that the working group should consider the sale of rough. The compliance report reiterated though that the Kimberley Process monitor to Zimbabwe should inspect Marange goods before a legal sale of those stones can take place.

The report made extensive recommendations, which encompassed Zimbabwe’s need for technical assistance, the identification of resource areas, the identification of potential investors, the recognition of small miners, issues relating to licensing and control systems, and the establishment of  adequate security infrastructure.

The report also went into detail on how rough diamond sales must demonstrate trickle-up benefits to the state treasury and the local communities where the diamonds are mined.

But the report also noted that there was some diamond smuggling by certain factions of the security forces. The review team itself also at one point had to requested assitance from Mpofu after they were prevented from continuing an  investigation at the Marange.

Kimberley Process chairman Boaz Hirsch, who is leading the plenary, dismissed Mpofu’s threat to sell outside of the process framework as political. “I’m not bothered by rhetoric, I’m bothered by action,” Hirsch told journalists at the meeting. “Our challenge is to meet joint positions, not make declarations.”

Hirsch noted that many issues have to be considered regarding Zimbabwe, including the compliance of the two operating concessions of Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Resources, and the new concession coming on stream operated by Anjin, a China-based company. In addition, the conditions outside of these fenced diamond mining areas need to be considered, he explained. Human Rights Watch reported an ongoing military presence in this area adding that soldiers harass and intimidate the local community and that human rights abuses are still occurring.

Representatives from civil society said they were disappointed at the tone of Mpofu’s message and noted that some key content was missing from his speech. Most significant was his apparent dismissal of adopting a civil society coalition to monitor conditions at Marange, which had been a selling point for civil society to allow limited exports in the third quarter.

Hirsch warned that the price of an impasse on Zimbabwe,  as was the case in June during the Tel Aviv intersessional meeting, would be too costly, and that it was vital that the Kimberley Process chart a course  to bring Zimbabwe into compliance.

He added that he hoped the plenary wouldn’t be dominated by Zimbabwe either, as the organization had other important issues to discuss, including industry activity from western Africa and some administrative procedures that he was hoping to implement.

* Pictured: Zimbabwe Mines Minister Obert Mpofu (right) with delegates at the Kimberley Process plenary meeting in Jerusalem, including Israel Diamond Manufacturers Association chairman Moti Ganz (left).

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