Zimbabwe’s diamonds shine

2012-08-25 09:25

Anti-conflict diamond initiative, the Kimberley Process (KP), this week reported that Zimbabwe is now the world’s fifth-largest diamond producer.

This is largely thanks to the controversial Marange diamonds increasingly making their mark in the international market.

Zimbabwe was ranked at number seven among the top nine diamond-producing countries in the world in 2010.

South Africa is now ranked seventh.

In its report last year, the KP said Zimbabwe diamond production, boosted by a rise at the Marange fields, continued to increase despite major declines in several other top producing countries.

Zimbabwe is second after Russia in terms of the margin of its increase in production.

The KP report also indicated that the economic sanctions imposed by the US and its Western allies had forced Zimbabwe to sell its gems
at a lower price.

In 2011, Zimbabwe exported its goods at a price of $54.31 per carat, though their book price was $56.01 per carat.

Russia was the top producer after increasing rough diamond production by 0.8% to 35.1 million carats followed by Botswana, which churned out 22.9 million carats, an increase of 4%.

In third position is the Democratic Republic of the Congo followed by Canada in fourth. The two recorded a 13% and 8.8% decline in production respectively.

Angola, South Africa, Australia and Namibia complete the list of last year’s top producers, and are reported to have all recorded a sharp production decline.

Obert Mpofu, Zimbabwe’s mines and mining development minister, said the KP report indicated that Marange’s gems could satisfy the world
market’s demands.

Mpofu said: “We were recently given certification by the KP (to export diamonds), but we have already shaken the world market both in terms of production and demand.

“Our gems are a force to reckon with. If we had not been hindered in selling our diamonds in the past years by the West, we could be one of the top countries in the world in terms of diamond production.”

However, critics have slammed news of Zimbabwe’s latest ranking, which they argued did not translate into revenue for the state.

“We would have expected that with such an elite ranking, much more money should be finding its way to the treasury”, said Charles Mangongera, a political commentator.

Diamond proceeds from Marange remain tightly controlled by the military and members of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Accusations have been ongoing from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which controls the treasury, of a Zanu-PF “parallel government” financed by the Marange diamonds.

If this is true, it would undermine the coalition government brokered in 2009 by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Mpofu has denied this and blames only sanctions for restricted revenue streams for the country.

“If you look at the price of our diamonds captured in the KP report, one can easily see we are selling them at a low price as a result of the sanctions that have been imposed on our diamond companies.

“It has become difficult for our diamond-producing companies in Chiadzwa to sell their gems despite the KP certification,” said Mpofu.

Earlier this month, new diamond deposits were discovered in the Chimanimani area, understood “to be of the same quality as the Marange gems”.

The mines and mining development ministry said diamond exploration in Chimanimani would begin soon.

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