Zimbabwe bans diamond exports

2010-05-27 13:09

Harare - Zimbabwe has banned all exports of diamonds until a monitor from the Kimberley Process regulator approves the sale of gems from a field plagued by human rights abuses, the mines minister said Thursday.

"I have suspended all diamond exports from Zimbabwe with immediate effect until the issue of Kimberley Process certification scheme has been sorted out," mines minister Obert Mpofu said in the state-run Herald newspaper.

"The issue is about Zimbabwe diamonds, but there seems to be a belief among our detractors that in Zimbabwe there are some diamonds which are pure or more acceptable to them than others," he said.

The Kimberley Process was created to prevent the sale of "blood diamonds" on world markets.

The global regulator has given Zimbabwe until June to end human rights abuses in the eastern Marange diamond fields, where investigators documented forced labour, beatings and other abuses by the military against civilians.

Kimberley's monitor for Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane, is currently in the country to assess compliance with the group's ultimatum.

Zimbabwe has two other diamond mines, one operated by Australia's Rio Tinto and another controlled by Saudi group Aujan.

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.

Global Witness, a British-based group that monitors the exploitation of natural resources, in January warned that the military still appeared to control large swaths of the Marange fields, which cover some 66 000 hectares.

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.