Archive for October, 2007
by AGavin on October 30th, 2007
Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) contends that Angola has failed to effectively implement the Kimberley Process despite having made extraordinary progress with the diamond industry following five years of peace in the southern African country.
The government’s implementation of the Kimberley Process “ arguably a bedrock upon which the current peace is built” has been based on a misguided and ultimately futile attempt to criminalize garimpeiros (artisanal miners) on the one hand, and a slipshod, half-hearted chain of warranties system on the other, PAC said in its 2007 Annual Diamond Industry Review on Angola. As a result, in the crucial informal sector, the current Angolan Kimberley Process simply does not live up to international standards.
Sources in the Kimberley Process, not familiar with the PAC report, told Rapaport News that Angola was fulfilling its minimum requirements of implementation. He also reported œnervous rumors that Angola may take the vice chairmanship of the KP, and therefore the 2009 chairmanship, when members meet for the KP’s annual plenary in early November.
The non-governmental organization recommended that the government develop an effective, transparent, believable system for tracking informal alluvial diamonds from production to export, as the current system is non-functional and violates Angola’s commitments to the KP.
PAC called upon the KP to require Angola to submit a comprehensive report on its internal controls in the artisanal sector, ensure that better records are kept for rough diamond transactions, and to pressurize Angola to invite a follow-up KP review visit of the country.
Still, the country has come a long way since the days when UNITA guerillas, under Jonas Savimbi, took control of Angola’s diamond provinces, mining the diamonds illegally and using the proceeds to fuel the civil war.
PAC explained that implementation of international controls on these conflict diamonds helped starve the rebel forces of funds, leading eventually to the defeat of Savimbi and the end of the war.
PAC noted the significant progress that has been made by Angolas diamond industry during the past five years, which has seen production nearly double, from 5 million carats in 2002 to around 9.5 million carats in 2006.
Revenue from diamond sales have also doubled through the five years to $1.2 billion in 2006, while government income has more than tripled to $165 million. Similarly, state-owned Endiama went from being in the red by $2.1 million in 2001, to record profits of more than $3 million in 2003.
The number of active diamond projects has grown to 12 by mid 2007, with another 15 expected to come on line in the next few years, and 30 more beyond that engaged in large scale prospecting, PAC reported. These projects currently employ more than 10,000 people, of which some 90 percent are Angolans.
The statistics, however, have not helped to alleviate poverty in the country and the report said that local communities suffer disproportionately from the exploitation of the countrys diamond resources.
PAC explained that the government and Endiama have been known to give away large percentages of various joint venture projects to political friends and insiders who contribute little to the success of the joint ventures, and have done nothing to merit such largesse.
Worse still, the money they receive is effectively robbing the people of Angola of funds that could have been used for development, the report added.
by AGavin on October 27th, 2007
Effective immediately, all importers of rough diamonds must fax a copy of the Kimberley Process Certification (KPC) arriving with the imported diamonds to the United States Census Bureau upon making any entry with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Census Bureau is responsible for collecting, compiling and publishing import and export statistics for the U.S. Copies of the foreign KPC must be faxed to
1-800-457-7328. Questions regarding the KPCS may be directed to Ms. Adria Gibson, 202-863-6057.
The information was provided by the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC.)Â The Clean Diamond Trade ActÂ that was signed into law in 2003 andÂ prohibits the â€œimportation into, or exportation from, the United States on or after July 30, 2003 of any rough diamond, from whatever source, unless the rough diamond has been controlled through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).â€ The Act requires the Census Bureau to maintain statistics on imports and exports of rough diamonds.
For information about the Jewelers Vigilance Committeeâ€™s (JVC) products and services, including its new DVD series covering legal compliance and anti-money laundering, visit JVCâ€™s Website: www.jvclegal.org.
by AGavin on October 25th, 2007
As the country embarks on taking centre stage in the world’s diamond trade through the opening of the Diamond Trading Centre (DTC) in Gaborone in the New Year, Botswana should start hosting major international conferences on the diamond trade in accordance with the country’s new status, says Akanyang Tombale, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources.
The country should use such conferences as a forum to tell its undiluted story regarding what it has to offer the world as a key player in the global diamond trade, Tombale said.
He was speaking ahead of next week’s international diamonds conference in Antwerp, Belgium, where DTC Botswana and its ancillaries in Namibia and South Africa will be on the agenda.
He was also responding to a statement released by the conveners of the conference questioning Botswana’s capacity as the new centre of the diamond trade.
“Perhaps we should host several of these conferences ourselves in the future not only to lure diamond companies to Botswana, but to reassure (ourselves) that Botswana has the capacity to deliver as the new world diamond center,” says Tombale.
He admits that European powers that have been centres of the diamond industry may feel threatened by steps taken by Botswana; he assured them that Botswana does not intend to upstage anyone.
“Diamonds are not infinite resources,” Tombale observes. “But when they finally run out, we do not want to remain with just empty pits. Diamonds can help us diversify the future of the industry and De Beers has supported us in our move to diversify our economy from just being a diamond producer,” Tombale says.
“We wish European countries dependent on the diamond industry would help us achieve this dream because we need them on board. We do not want to be viewed as a threat to anyone.” Botswana will be represented by Minister Ponatshego Kedikilwe and key officials from the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources at the Antwerp conference.
Tombale is hoping that Botswana’s cutting and polishing companies, four of which originate from Belgium, will also be in attendance.
Sixteen cutting and polishing companies have so far been registered in Botswana, while more are expected to be licensed in the New Year.
Tombale was asked to respond to a press statement released in Belgium casting doubt on Botswana’s capacity to be the new centre of the diamond trade.
“Questions have been raised about the viability of the fledgling African cutting industry, which faces stiff competition from India and China, and currently lacks the physical and financial infrastructures available elsewhere,” the statement reads in part.
It is feared that a number of invited speakers at the conference will dismiss the Botswana project and discourage any further interest in investing in the country. Notable among such speakers will be representatives of Canadian and Australian diamond companies, which have resolutely placed themselves to compete with Botswana.
“We are witnessing the beginning of a process that we know will change the way in which the diamond industry has operated for more than a century, but there are very real questions about the degree of change and what effects it will have on the business and the diamond market,” Freddy J. Hanard says in the statement. “These changes are forcing members of our industry to question how and where they will obtain rough supply in the future, and where they will process the diamonds. All these issues will be addressed at the conference in Antwerp.”
Hanard is the CEO of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, the organiser of the Antwerp Diamond Conference.
The strident statement warns that the need to secure a greater portion of the diamond value chain is an issue of critical economic and political importance in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Angola, which together supply more than 50 percent of the rough diamonds flowing into the world pipeline each year.
by AGavin on October 23rd, 2007
The European Union and Jewelers of America are now calling for a ban on “blood rubies.” Cartier & Tiffany & Co. have both also joined the ban (related story). Also visit Diamond Play Ground for this story and similar ones.
Gary Roskin, Senior Editor — JCK-Jewelers Circular Keystone, 10/18/2007 6:57:00 AM
Since early October international news agencies from CNN to the Australian Broadcasting Corp., have been reporting that gemstones from Burma are financing the Myanmar military government, and that selling Burma rubies is equivalent to selling conflict diamonds. The following is a listing of some of the reports:
* Two early reports, Reuters’s “Blood Rubies Bankroll Burmese Junta,” reported on ABC’s Web site, and CNN Jonathan Mann’s video report, “Myanmar Gems; Trade keeps military junta amply funded in Myanmar“ both focus on international response to the brutal crackdown on “civil disobedience,” peaceful pro-democracy rallies. The reports note that the European Union is considering a trade ban on gems from Burma, and that the US Congress has been asked to amend its ban to include gems “mined” in Burma. Current U.S. policy bans all Burmese products but allows Burmese gems cut and polished elsewhere to be legally imported.
* In a feature story titled “US Jewelers Want Myanmar Gem Loophole Plugged,” from Agence France-Presse, the conditions at Burmese gem mines is also reported. “The stones are mined at a huge human cost, with reports of horrific working conditions in Myanmar’s ruby mines, whose access is forbidden to outsiders. Groups of Myanmar exiles have called for a boycott of the gem auctions held by the ruling junta, claiming that the mines rely on forced labor.”
* Jeremy Woodrum, director of an organization called the U.S. Campaign for Burma was quoted as stating “Burma’s gem industry is dominated by the military regime and its cronies. No one with a conscience should buy a ruby because it is almost assuredly from Burma.”
As CNN’s Mann states, “In Myanmar, they have Blood Rubies. The ring on your finger could be helping keep the Junta in power there.”
Mann also talks about the U.S. ban on Burmese products, and how Burmese gems are legally sold here because of the “loophole you could drive truck through,” says Mann.
* In their press release, Peggy Jo Donahue, director of Public Affairs for Jewelers of America notes that JA has asked Congress to amend the Burmese Freedom & Democracy Act of 2003, which bans the importation of products from Burma, so that it includes gemstones “mined” in that country. This would effectively close the loophole which allows the purchase and sale of Burmese gems which are cut, polished, and sold once outside of Burma.
“Please note, JA has made it very clear that members should seek, on all future orders placed, written assurances from their suppliers that they will not knowingly supply any gems mined in Burma, until the process of democratic reform has started in that country.”
While there are many in the gem business who can easily justify and defend the buying and selling of Burmese gems as helping the Burmese people and not the military government as these reports state, the jeweler is going to be hard pressed to overcome the power of the international press.
* As Dave Federman, editor-in-chief of Colored Stone magazine writes, “looks like we’re going to have a ruby-less Christmas.”
“Tiffany’s Ban On Rubies From Burma Continues
Since 2003, Tiffany & Co. has not purchased rubies or other gemstones of known Burmese origin. Today, we are more committed than ever. We will continue our ban on the purchase of Burmese gemstones until democratic processes are restored in Myanmar.”
* Cartier released its own statement on the issue, which reads:
“Given the current crisis, and in accordance with our commitment to continuous improvement, Cartier has stopped buying gemstones which may have been mined in Burma (wherever those stones have been cut and exported from) until further notice. Cartier has issued instructions to this effect to its suppliers, requesting that they confirm on all relevant shipments that the gemstones provided have not been mined in Burma.”
by AGavin on October 21st, 2007
A United Nations-appointed team of experts has called on all countries bordering Coté D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Ivorian authorities, to tighten controls after it found diamonds were being smuggled out of the Ivory Coast to Mali.Cote d’Ivoire is subject to an embargo of diamond exports and is believed to be the only source of “conflict diamonds” in the market today. According to the World Diamond Congress (WDC,) these diamonds make up less than 1 percent of the total global trade. Neither Cote d’Ivoire nor Mali are members of the Kimberley Process (KP.)
The five-man team visited the Tortiya and Séguéla mining areas in August and September as part of an investigation into possible violations of the embargo on diamond exports.
“It [the investigation] uncovered evidence of persistent activity in the Tortiya and Séguéla mining areas,” the team said in a report. “Also, many dealers confirmed the use of Malian smuggling rings to move Ivorian diamonds out of the country.”
The team explained that all individuals interviewed in Séguéla and Tortiya unanimously acknowledged that “most of the diamonds mined in Ivory Coast are sent to Mali,” but did not give details on the identity of the exporters or buyers.
The group also visited neighboring Ghana to review its implementation of KP controls, and lauded the country for making “remarkable efforts that have enhanced the credibility of its internal control system and its diamond import/export regime.”
“In time this should help curb fraud and cross border smuggling,” the report continued.
The investigation also included a visit to Antwerp where the team met with representatives of the WDC and the KP to discuss diamond mining activity in Cote d’Ivoire and the illegal export of the stones to major markets.
A subsequent visit to the United Arab Emirates brought inconclusive results on whether Ivorian diamonds were filtering through to Dubai.
Political unrest has been rife in Cote d’Ivoire since the mid-1990s, during which time two coup d’états have been staged. After a peace agreement was signed in 2003 between the government and rebels, forming a unity government, violence broke again in 2004 when rebels refused to disarm. The violence continued through to March 2007 when another peace deal was signed between the government and the rebels.
The UN said in the report that while tension abated after signing the agreement, “the process of emerging from the crisis has not significantly progressed beyond symbolic acts.”
In addition to the diamond industry, the team of experts also reviewed the country’s security needs, and the implementation of the arms embargo there, its air force fleet, cocoa and coffee sectors.
by AGavin on October 18th, 2007
After a week-long visit to Sierra Leone, United Nations peace building representative Dutch ambassador Frank Majoor had tremendous praise for the diamond-rich nation.
While there is work yet to be done, Majoor said the peacekeeping efforts had stabilized the nation. During Majoor’s visit, he met with newly elected President Ernest Bai Koroma, vice president Sam Sumana, and members of Parliament.
Discussions centered upon development of the Peacebuilding Commission Cooperation Framework, an agreed-to plan of commitments and priorities on such issues as good governance, justice, security sector reform, and youth employment.
Majoor also stressed that the Commission, which was established in December 2005 to help countries recovering from war avoid a relapse, would assist in tackling reform in key areas such as the justice sector, governance, human rights, the security sector, youth employment, civil service, and capacity building.
â€œIn all these the [the Commission] can play a critical role to assist the new government,â€ Majoor said.
Characterizing the recent presidential and parliamentary elections as a â€œturning point,â€ he commended the countryâ€™s police and military for their role in providing security and said they must be bolstered to continue performing their duties.
The Commission brings together key actors, including international donors, international financial institutions, national governments from focus countries, troop contributor countries, U.N. bodies and civil society representatives, to promote a common approach to helping a country emerge from conflict.
Sierra Leone was selected as one of the first two countries on the agenda of the Commission, and it has begun received money already from the related Peacebuildng Fund, a multi-year standing trust fund that has an initial funding target of $250 million and so far has collected deposits worth almost $144 million from donor countries. The other country selected by the Commission was Burundi.
by AGavin on October 16th, 2007
By Philip Blenkinsop
ANTWERP, Belgium, Oct 16 (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo sees a potential tripling of the value of its diamond production as efficient industrial groups take over from local players, its deputy minister of mines said late on Monday.
“Now we’re at around $600 million. We have scope to push that to $2 billion,” Victor Kasongo told Reuters television.
The country, that last year held multi-party elections, currently has about 700,000 artisanal miners digging out what Kassongo described as the “long-hanging fruit”.
Congo is still emerging from a civil war that killed almost 4 million people and has seen renewed fighting in the east in recent months.
It has set itself goals to increase efficiency of production and boost transparency of distribution by 2010.
Actual production is estimated at about one third higher than declared output.
“We have 70 percent of diamonds from artisanal mines. We suffer from smuggling and trading not based on the rules,” Kasongo said.
Congo is also currently evaluating 65 mining concessions for all materials mostly granted during a six-year war and the three-year transition period that followed.
The review began in June and was due to last three months, Kasongo said, but the investigating team was still busy.
He added that the process should be complete by the end of the year, when companies would be informed whether their concessions would stand.
“The essentials have been done, but the issues are complex and now there are discussions in government to see which contracts have merit and which do not and should be ended,” the deputy minister commented.
by AGavin on October 15th, 2007
Source: SABC News
October 15, 2007, 18:45
The 200-year cycle of exporting raw materials from Africa with very little benefit is soon to be a thing of the past. At least this is what African diamond producing countries hope to achieve with setting up diamond centres to process the gems themselves.
South Africa plans to hold back about 10% of its R4 billion export market for processing at home.
Delegates from over 40 countries attending the 2007 Antwerp Diamond Conference in Belgium were told the centre of gravity of the entire diamond industry was set to change.
Antwerp is the traditional diamond capital of the world, and while that is not likely to change soon, African diamond producers - including South Africa, Botswana, Angola and the DRC - want to start cutting, polishing and making jewelry themselves. This will entail setting up diamond centers that will benefit the countries far more than sending the precious stones overseas.
This new era in the diamond industry has caused some concern in Antwerp, but producer countries and major players in the industry said that without the help and investment from the established sector, the plans to go it alone - albeit on a small scale - are doomed to failure.
“Industry leaders and governments realise that it has to be a process of working together, of sharing expertise if the aim is to create an African diamond manufacturing industry,” says De Beers MD Gareth Penny.
Negotiations have been underway for some time to bring investment, expertise and training from Antwerp to South Africa. Managed properly, this new shift in the diamond trade should benefit everyone in the industry, as well as consumers.
by AGavin on October 13th, 2007
Associated Press, LAUSANNE: Swiss authorities have decided to provide Belgium with judicial assistance in its investigation of two Belgians accused of dealing in blood diamonds.
Belgium alleges that five Geneva-based firms used fake certificates to import raw diamonds worth EUR370 million ($525 million.) The diamonds were then sold to Belgians suspected of having made payments contributing to the funding of warfare in African countries.
Switzerland’s highest court rejected appeals from the Geneva firms to block the transfer of documents and bank records to Belgian authorities. The rulings by the Swiss Federal Tribunal were released Wednesday (October 10, 2007.)
Belgium is also investigating whether fictitious business deals were made through Geneva as a tax evasion scheme, according to the rulings.
None of the companies involved were made public by the Swiss tribunal.
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
by AGavin on October 12th, 2007
Source: AP Google
1 day ago
LONDON (AFP) — Rights campaigners Global Witness called Tuesday for Venezuela to be excluded from the international diamond market, accusing it of undermining the fight against trade in so-called blood diamonds.
The group called on the European Commission to expel Venezuela for “flagrant non-compliance” with the Kimberley Process (KP), the regulatory system designed to prevent trade in diamonds used to fund conflicts.
“Failure to do so could compromise the entire scheme,” said a statement from the group.
“Nearly one year after clear evidence of massive diamond smuggling in Venezuela came to light, the country continues to flout the KP,” said Charmian Gooch, Director of Global Witness in the statement.
“If the KP does not address large-scale smuggling of rough diamonds in Venezuela and other countries, it cannot effectively protect against the threat of blood diamonds.”
Global Witness referred to a 2006 report by Partnership Africa Canada, a non-governmental agency, that implicated Venezuela in the trade in illicitly mined and smuggled diamonds.
“Venezuela has also failed in its obligation to provide the KP with an annual report and credible statistics this year,” it added.
Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) itself echoed that position in a press release on its website:
“Venezuela made a half-hearted attempt to supply a few statistics earlier this year, but the numbers are simply not credible,” it said.
PAC said it had repeatedly called on the European Commission, which currently administers the Kimberley Process, to “get tough with Venezuela.”
Global Witness noted that Ivory Coast was also involved in the trade in conflict or blood diamonds.
It referred to a 2006 UN report that indicated that 23 million dollars of conflict diamonds had been smuggled out of Ivory Coast and into the international market, a situation confirmed by subsequent reports.
“The international diamond industry also needs to live up to its promise of self-regulation to combat the trade in conflict diamonds,” said Global Witness.
The Kimberley Process is jointly run by governments and the diamond industry and groups 45 countries and international organisations.
The UN-backed scheme was set up in 2000 to try to end the use of diamonds to fund conflicts such as those fought in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.