US blacklists firms dealing in Zimbabwean diamonds

The US government is going all out to blacklist trade with any international company found dealing in Zimbabwean diamonds – this after the Kimberley Process had approved the sale of the gems.

The latest development about Zimbabwe’s controversial diamonds comes after the new chairman of the Kimberley Process, Mathieu Yamba, was quoted on Rapaport Diamond Trading Network’s website as saying Zimbabwe should go ahead until "an administrative decision is passed". Rapaport is US-based organisation that links thousands of diamond suppliers and buyers around the world.

The US and other European countries put a trade embargo on Zimbabwe, accusing it of gross human rights abuses in the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

Yamba is said to have sent a letter to Kimberley Process members. Part of the letter, according to Rapaport, reads: "Zimbabwe is hereby authorised to resume exports from the mining operations of Mbada and Canadile."

The US believed its policy on Zimbabwe had been compromised, and said the only way to curb Zimbabwean trade was by prohibiting firms that deal with it from dealing with US companies.  

The World Diamond Council has confirmed the US’s standpoint. "As has been widely reported, Mathieu Yamba, chair of the Kimberley Process, recently issued a statement that defers discussion on unresolved issues to the Working Group on Monitoring, but in the meantime permits Zimbabwe to export rough diamond shipments from the two official concessions in the Marange region, subject to oversight by the appointed monitor.

"The World Diamond Council understands that a number of Kimberley Process participant countries, including the US, Canada, Israel and the European Union, are seeking clarity on procedural issues surrounding this release and have indicated that exports should not be permitted until these issues have been explained and resolved."

The council advised members of the international diamond industry to refrain from trading in goods from the region until the situation beca me clearer.

The US is one of the top five diamond consumers. Rapaport’s website said the US had already communicated with the United Arab Emirates and India about its position on the Zimbabwean diamonds.

It said that any of its trade partners dealing "in any way with gems originating from Zimbabwe would be blocked".

The two companies, Mbada and Canadile, which have been given the green light by the Kimberley Process, are on the international sanctions list.

The Kimberley Process decision would not help the situation, according to economist John Robertson.

"Most diamonds find their way to the US because it is the biggest consumer market in the world. No company would risk losing business because of Zimbabwe," he said this week.

The Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, declined to comment.

Negotiations to allow the exports failed at the Kimberley Process plenary meeting in Jerusalem in November last year. Further talks broke down in January after Israel, in its capacity as 2010 chair, initiated a final effort to bring all Kimberley Process members into written consensus regarding the "Jerusalem agreement" proposal.

Following an initial announcement by Israel’s chairman Boaz Hirsch that consensus had been reached, Yamba subsequently reported that consensus had not been achieved. – TimesLive