10 April 2009

Zimbabwe: Chiadzwa Diamonds Banned

Harare — THE World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) has banned trade in rough diamonds originating from Zimbabwe except those certified by the Kimberley Process, The Financial Gazette heard this week.

Last week, the WFDB called on members to take all measures necessary to ensure they do not trade in diamonds originating from Zimbabwe.

This follows reports of violations of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) by illegal diamond panners.

"The WFDB and its membership worldwide are committed to do all it can to prevent conflict diamonds from Zimbabwe or from any other source, for that matter, to be traded by our members," said WFDB president Avi Paz in a statement issued from Antwerp, Belgium.

"As founding members of the World Diamond Council and as signatories to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, it is our duty to remind not only our own members, but all those who operate in the diamond industry and trade of the devastating impact of conflicts fuelled by the trade in conflict diamonds on the peace, safety and security of people in affected countries, and the systematic and gross human rights violations that have been perpetrated in such conflicts," the WFDB president said.

"The WFDB and its member bourses have a cast-iron rule that rough diamonds can only be traded when they are accompanied by KP certificates," Paz stated. "Any bourse member who trades in rough diamonds without KP certification is liable for expulsion from this bourse, which in all practical terms, means the exclusion from the entire diamond business community," Paz concluded.

Founded in 1947, the WFDB unites diamond exchanges under one roof to provide a common set of practices for bourses trading in rough and polished diamonds, as well as coloured stones.

But the origins of the WFDB actually date back to 1946 when Jack Sigman, the then president, held discussions in Antwerp about creating a vehicle that would look out for the collective interests of the diamond trade.

The inaugural meeting of the WFDB took place in Antwerp in July 1947, at what today is recognised as the premiere World Diamond Congress.

The ability of the WFDB to react to changing conditions in the market has, since 1947, provided the diamond sector with an ability to act decisively and in unison, despite the great distances between the various manufacturing and trading centres. This is almost to ensure that the world federation remains the industry's most important representative body for years to come.

Paz said comprehensive data, descriptions and photographs of the rough diamonds mined at the Marange deposits have been widely circulated by the Working Group of Diamond Experts of the Kimberley Process, making identification of these illicit diamonds easier.

The warning issued by the WFDB does not pertain to diamonds mined at the Murowa deposit in Zimbabwe, since the production from this source is in compliance with the Kimberley Process.

There has been a strong push worldwide to ban trade in diamonds originating from Zimbabwe following reports of rampant illegal goal mining at the diamond fields in Chiadzwa, Marange.

Last month a team from the Kimberley Process visited the country on a fact-finding mission seeking, among other issues, to establish whether mass murders occurred in Marange late last year during a crackdown by security forces on illegal diamond mining.

Government has since responded by restoring order at the fields and allowing the state-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) to extract the resource on its behalf.

Government officials were quoted recently saying that the Chiadzwa operation was realising 50 000 to 60 000 carats per week and might produce diamonds worth US$60 000 a day if state-of-the-art mining equipment was procured.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Gideon Gono, has previously bemoaned the lack of adequate equipment at ZMDC, describing its diamond mining methods as "mechanised gold panning".

"We are processing applications from companies that are interested in cutting and polishing diamonds," Mines Minister Obert Mpofu was quoted saying.

Government seized the Chiadzwa diamond claim from British-based Africa Consolidated Resources in 2007.

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