Diamonds: Zim meets KP criteria
Harare - Zimbabwe has met minimum human rights standards in its diamond fields, an international monitor said in a report on Tuesday, bringing the country a step closer to resuming international trade in the gems.
"Zimbabwe has satisfied minimum requirements of the Kimberley Process certification scheme for the trade in rough diamonds," the global diamond regulator said in its report, obtained by AFP.
Last year, Kimberley investigators documented forced labour, beatings and other abuses by the military against civilians in the eastern Marange diamond fields.
The Kimberley Process, created to prevent the sale of "blood diamonds" on world markets, will consider the report later this month at a meeting in Israel, which could clear the way for Zimbabwe to resume diamond exports.
Zimbabwe had faced a June deadline to end human rights abuses in Marange, and South African diamond executive Abbey Chikane was named as Kimberley's monitor in Harare to ensure compliance.
The report said Zimbabwe government faced difficulties "in managing a number of challenges", and urged diamond-producing countries in southern Africa to help Zimbabwe regulate artisanal mining, appraise its diamonds and provide security in the fields.
"The economic situation in Zimbabwe renders the government incapable of dealing with some of these challenges," the report said.
Zimbabwe has two other diamond mines, one operated by Australia's Rio Tinto and another controlled by Saudi group Aujan.
Kimberley only halted diamond sales from Marange, but the abuses in Marange cast a shadow over the entire industry. Mining is Zimbabwe's main foreign currency earner.
In January, Kimberley halted the sale of 300 000 carats of diamonds from Marange, saying the auction did not have approval.
The mines ministry says more than two million carats have been mined since the beginning of the year in Marange, but none have been sold.
President Robert Mugabe, who controls the military under Zimbabwe's power-sharing regime, has threatened to pull out of the Kimberley Process if the country is not allowed to sell its gems.
The issue of Zimbabwe diamonds is set to dominate the Kimberley meeting in Israel, officials say.
The Marange fields face a separate legal hurdle in Harare, where the government and the British firm African Consolidated Resources are in court over a dispute on the license to exploit the gems.
The British firm says it holds rights to the fields, but Zimbabwe has placed the mining operation under the management of two South African firms.
The Marange fields cover some 163 000 acres, but the gems were only discovered there in 2006, making them one of the few new sources of income for Zimbabwe as it claws its way out of a decade of economic collapse.