Archive for December, 2009
by Admin on December 24th, 2009
From the shade of a makeshift shed, Mohammed Conde watches his workers turn over the red soil with shovels and pickaxes: Diamond mining at Bobi in Cote d’Ivoire persists despite a United Nations (UN) ban on exports.
Diamond extraction is the main activity in this large village in the heart of the wooded savannah in the country’s northwest. The open-pit mine, the region’s largest, extends around two-thirds of a mile (over a kilometer).
Hundreds work here in spite of a UN embargo on rough diamonds, initiated in 2005 based on the argument that the trade financed New Forces (FN) rebels behind a failed 2002 coup against President Laurent Gbagbo.
Before the embargo, “we extracted diamonds in 25 villages in the Seguela district [260 miles or 420 kilometers northwest of Abidjan] compared to only ten today,” said mine operator Conde.
“Rough diamonds don’t sell so well any more; the big Israeli and South African investors have left because of the embargo,” Conde said. “Ivorian diamonds no longer put food on the table.”
Money from diamonds still feed around 5,000 people — compared with 20,000 before 2005 — according to figures from the mining development group Sodemi. For diamond expert Michel Yobouet, “one of the great weaknesses” of the embargo is that “it covers exports, not extraction.”
Legally extracted diamonds “are still sold illegally on the international market,” accounting for around $25 million, said Yobouet, a member of the Kimberley Process (KP), the global diamond watchdog.
Cote d’Ivoire diamond production is, in fact, on the increase, according to the KP, which monitors and hopes to eliminate the trade in so-called “blood diamonds,” which have financed many African conflicts.
Placed under the authority of powerful FN commander Issiaka Ouattara known as “Wattao,” one of ten such commanders who control the north, ex-rebels from Bobi insist their involvement in the diamond trade is history. Since the signing of a peace deal in 2007, “we’ve turned our backs on the ‘diams’,” as the trade is known, a local FN official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
Nevertheless, the trade continues.
Mamadou Diomande describes himself as “the boss’s special envoy” in reference to the mysterious buyer he works for.
“Before the embargo, diamonds landed in Belgian diamond workshops via Abidjan,” he said. “Diamonds mined from Bobi now transit via Mali, Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone before ending up in Israel or Belgium.”
A UN experts report published in October — the most recent time the embargo was renewed — noted “the absence of effective border controls,” which aids in the trafficking of contraband to neighboring countries. The government says that the best way to end the smuggling would be to lift the embargo.
The embargo “has penalized us greatly and no longer has any reason to exist,” said a senior official from Sodemi, citing the end of the civil war and repeatedly delayed elections, which are now due to be held in February.
“A lifting of the embargo would allow for the traceability of diamonds that is sought by the Kimberley Process,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
Moreover, Cote d’Ivoire needs to modernize its diamond industry, President Gbagbo said recently, warning that “we’re not going to content ourselves with the small-scale exploitation of a product as important as diamonds.”
by Admin on December 21st, 2009
Throughout 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has conducted field-based research in the diamond fields of Marange in eastern Zimbabwe. We found that mining under the supervision of the police and then the military resulted in the use of forced labor of adults and children, killings and severe beatings. By any reasonable assessment, diamonds from Marange are “blood diamonds” and we are publicly calling upon retailers and interested consumers to boycott Zimbabwe diamonds unless and until the abuses that we uncovered come to an end.
We are also asking the diamond industry to pressure the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the global group monitoring the diamond trade, to suspend Zimbabwe until diamond mining at Marange meets its minimum standards for membership. The KPCS sent its own review mission to Zimbabwe and confirmed our findings. We believe that it can no longer certify that diamonds from Zimbabwe are mined in compliance with the rules of the KPCS.
Human Rights Abuses in Marange
In June 2009, HRW published a report documenting horrific human rights abuses in the Marange diamond fields by the Zimbabwean military, including forced labor, child labor, the killing of more than 200 people, beatings, smuggling and corruption.
As recently as late October 2009, these abuses were ongoing. HRW’s latest information suggests that the situation in Marange remains largely unchanged. Despite claims that the army was withdrawing, for the most part, the diamond fields remain under firm military control, with smuggling, human rights abuses, and corruption unchecked.
The Role of the Kimberley Process
In July 2009, a Kimberley Process (KP) investigative mission also found serious human rights abuses and rampant smuggling at the Marange diamond fields. However, the states that make up the KP decided not to suspend Zimbabwe from participation, nor ban the export of its diamonds, despite those findings. The weak excuse given was that its mandate only addresses “conflict diamonds,” or those mined by rebel groups, but not by abusive governments. In this case, the abuses at Marange were committed by Zimbabwe’s police and army, rather than rebel groups.
But these abuses are as serious as those that the KP was designed to address; relying on a technicality is no comfort for the victims of the abuses. Instead of ignoring human rights abuses, KPCS members, as well as retailers, should classify Marange diamonds as “conflict diamonds.”
What the Diamond Industry Can Do
Because of the prevalence of smuggling, the lack of transparency within Zimbabwe’s diamond industry, insufficient controls at the country’s borders with neighboring countries and weak certification mechanisms, there is no way to guarantee that Marange stones are not being mixed with those produced at Zimbabwe’s other two mines. Moreover, once the Marange diamonds leave Zimbabwe, they are intermingled with diamonds from other countries, creating a serious risk that Zimbabwean diamonds extracted in an abusive human rights environment may be sold in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The U.S. diamond industry, including retailers, therefore has an important responsibility to ensure that they do not sell these gems to unwitting customers. As I am sure you’re aware, consumers are increasingly concerned about this problem and might be reticent to buy any diamonds unless suppliers guarantee they are not sourcing from Zimbabwe and can demonstrate that they are in full compliance with the requirements of the KP.
Some diamond suppliers, like Rapaport and Leber Jewelers, have told consumers that they will not acquire or sell Marange diamonds. Other retailers should be able to take similar steps and we urge you to do so, as well.
by Admin on December 21st, 2009
Dr Akolang Tombale, the Botswana Diamond Hub Coordinator, has been replaced over the weekend. Jacob Thamage, who served as director of mineral affairs at the ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water resources, is replacing Tombale, IDEX Online has learned.
At press time, it was not clear if Dr Tombale has resigned or has been replaced.
According to initial reports, Thamage’s appointment is temporary. The next Diamond Hub Coordinator is slated to be Gebaake Gebaake, who currently serves as the Permanent Secretary at the ministry.
Thamage is familiar with the diamond industry, working, among other things, on the Kimberley Process where he led a KP review mission to Israel.
by Admin on December 18th, 2009
Diamonds smuggled out of Zimbabwe are being illegally sold on the Mozambican side of the border in Manica town, according to the administrator of Manica District, Jose Tefula, cited by Radio Mozambique.Zimbabwe’s loose diamond deposits are located nearby in the province of Manicaland. These deposits have attracted a high number of foreigners, notably from Nigeria, Somalia and the Great Lakes region, some of whom are renting rooms in Manica.
“I confirm that diamonds are being illegally sold in our district and they’ve been smuggled from Zimbabwe,” said Tefula. “Locally, we don’t have any diamonds.”
Manica district has an overwhelmingly peasant population, but in recent months, some people here have acquired substantial wealth, judging by the number of luxury four-wheel-drive vehicles now on the roads. This is attributed to the illicit trade in diamonds, which are believed to come from the Marange region in Manicaland. The diamonds are sold in Manica at night and the going price mentioned by the radio report was about $50 (1,350 meticais) per gram. Iimmigration authorities in Machipanda, the main border post of Zimbabwe, have announced the seizure of more than half a kilo of Zimbabwe diamonds.
“We seized some grams from people who were trying to cross the border with the diamonds in their genitals,” said the head of the Machipanda post, Alberto Limeme, cited in a report from the Portuguese news agency, Lusa. “But it’s difficult to fight this smuggling on the border if there isn’t tight control in the mines.”
by Admin on December 14th, 2009
The United States, the E.U. and other Western powers blasted the UN General Assembly on Friday for ignoring Zimbabwe’s reported failure to comply with international efforts to curb trade in “blood diamonds.”
The 192-nation body adopted a resolution warning that “trade in conflict diamonds continues to be a matter of serious international concern” and increased vigilance was vital.
The assembly was responding to a report on conflict stones by Namibia, which chairs the diamond industry’s Kimberley Process. Although the resolution was adopted, a number of Western delegations criticized the assembly for failing to mention concerns about Zimbabwe, which is suspected of not complying with Kimberley Process safeguards.
Namibia’s report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there were “credible indications of significant non-compliance with the minimum requirements of the (Kimberley Process) by Zimbabwe.”
U.S. delegate Laura Ross said: “We regret that language reflecting this concern has not been included in the text of this resolution.”
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Sweden’s UN Ambassador Anders Liden voiced similar views, as did delegates from Japan, Australia and Canada.
Zimbabwe’s U.N. Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku rejected the suggestion that Harare was not complying with the rules.
“We are committed to the Kimberley Process,” he told the assembly, adding that the United States and others were trying to politicize the issue by attacking his country.
Zimbabwe was one of the resolution’s co-sponsors.
Before the implementation of the Kimberley Process, conflict stones made up about 15 percent of the world market. They are believed to account for less than 1 percent of stones traded today, although many diamonds remain untraceable.
The Namibian report warned that blood diamonds could be making a comeback. It said Internet sales and postal shipments “have become issues of concern, as it has proved difficult to track and reconcile rough diamond shipments.”
by Admin on December 7th, 2009
Zimbabwe’s finance minister Tendai Biti indicated in his 2010 budget presentation that government monitors would maintain control of the Marange diamond operations, despite a recent Kimberley Process (KP) declaration to the contrary.
“[The] treasury, in consultation with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, will appoint a government evaluator in order to assist in the valuation of Marange diamond production,” Biti said in the presentation posted on the Zimbabwe treasury website.
He explained that the mining and finance ministries, “together with law enforcement departments will station monitors on site on all mining areas in Marange,” and that “if necessary, technical experts from the region or the Kimberley Process will also be co-opted into the team.”
The wording in the budget was in stark contrast to a work plan, co-authored by the KP and Zimbabwe government representatives at the KP’s annual plenary in November, that required all Marange diamonds be reviewed by a KP-appointed monitor before being exported, to ensure they are compliant with the scheme. The plan also insisted on the demilitarization of the area.
The KP plenary failed to suspend Zimbabwe despite a June review visit citing reports of government sponsored killings and human rights abuses at Marange during the past year. Human Rights Watch has reported continued abuses there as late as October, shortly before the plenary met in Namibia.
Instead, the KP adopted the 12-step work plan to bring Zimbabwe into compliance after the country announced at the plenary that it has improved the situation at Marange by recruiting two companies to work the fields. This, despite a recent Harare High Court ruling that confirmed the fields belonged to British-registered African Consolidated Resources (ACR).
The disputed area covers 1,800 hectares (18 square kilometers) of the Marange fields, and is considered the richest part of the fields. The government has formed joint ventures with Canadile, to mine the southern part of the concession, and with South African scrap metals dealer New Reclamation, to work the northern section.
Biti said in his budget speech that he expects that the legal process connected to ACR’s ownership “should be resolved as soon as possible.” He explained that the joint ventures between the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and Canadile and New Reclamation have been registered and that the companies will be required to pay a weekly dividend to the government. The ZMDC will “wind up the rudimentary operations in the Marange special grants,” Biti added.
ACR chairman Andrew Cranswick recently told Rapaport News that the companies were digging illegally on ACR’s property in observance of a government directive. He added that while the government had previously expressed interest to work with ACR on the fields, the company was not approached to form any joint ventures on the property. “We haven’t been allowed on the site since 2006,” he added, referring to the date when the government forced ACR off the fields.
Biti did not expound on how he expects the legal dispute with ACR will be resolved dedicating more of his presentation to the government’s plans to exploit the Marange territory.
by Admin on December 7th, 2009
African Consolidated Resources [ACR] has approached the High Court to evict two companies recently granted concessions to exploit diamonds in Chiadzwa as well as two other mining concerns.
ACR is seeking to bar the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, Mbada Mining (Private) Limited, Marange Resources (Private) Limited and Canadile Miners (Private) Limited from exploiting diamonds that it says fall under its own claims.
Mbada and Canadile recently started operations in Chiadzwa and a high-level ministerial team visited the area two weeks ago to see what progress they had made in developing the claims.
Mbada is a joint venture concern between ZMDC, Marange Resources and Mauritius’ Grandwell Holdings Limited.
Canadile brings together ZMDC, Marange Resources and an unnamed third party. Marange Resources is a ZMDC subsidiary.
In late September, Justice Charles Hungwe reversed a government decision to cancel ACR’s permit and ordered ZMDC to cease its prospecting and diamond mining activities there. The court also ordered the release of 129,400 carats of diamonds owned by ACR that had been seized by police two years ago. But the judgment was silent on the eviction of the four companies that have been mining the fields.
On Thursday, ACR’s lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, filed an urgent chamber application in the High Court seeking the companies’ eviction. The case will be handled by Justice Ben Hlatshwayo on a date yet to be set.
ZMDC, Marange Resources, Canadile Miners, Mbada Mining, Mines and Mining Development minister Orbert Mpofu, the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe and police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri are cited as respondents.
In the application, ACR director Andrew Noel Cranswick submitted that ZMDC and Marange Resources should vacate the area. He said Canadile Miners and Mbada Mining were mining on a large scale on ACR claims, which was prejudicial to them. Cranswick said the companies were mining under a special grant to ZMDC that the High Court had ruled did not apply to ACR’s claims.
“Consequently, it is evident that the diamond mining conducted by third and fourth respondents (Mbada Mining and Canadile Miners) on the ACR claims (is) unlawful and (has) been unlawful from the very beginning.
“Since the ACR claims are valid, only the applicants are fully entitled to conduct diamond mining activities on the claims,” he said.
Mbada Mining is said to have arranged for importation of an aeroplane into the country and has leased the old terminal at Harare International Airport. Both Mbada and Canadile are understood to have pumped millions of dollars into developing the claims. However, ACR wants to resume mining but feels the respondents should first remove their property and vacate the claims.
In the event that the application is granted, ACR applies that any appeal to be noted should not have the effect of suspending the High Court ruling.
In a certificate for urgency of the case, Samkange said ACR stood to suffer irreparable damage if the companies continued their illegal mining.
“Mining claims have a limited lifespan, which in some cases would be for a very short period, and the longer the respondents mine on these claims, the more the applicants suffer irreparable harm.
“It would be difficult for the applicants to be able to ascertain the monetary value of the extracted diamonds and to be fully compensated for such loss,” Samkange said.
by Admin on December 7th, 2009
As response to recent reports in the media on how the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) could be circumvented by cutting and polishing a single facet to rough diamonds, the Kimberley Process would like to emphasize that these remarks are substantively incorrect.
It is incorrect that semi-cut diamonds fall outside the scope of the KPCS.
Indeed, the mentioned reports refer to a situation that existed until 2004. However, since that date, in order to close possible loopholes (such as the one alluded to in the reports), the definition of rough diamonds has been modified by the World Customs Organization (WCO) upon suggestion by the Kimberley Process. Semi-cut diamonds are classified in tariff provisions of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS-System) which fall squarely within the scope of the KPCS’s definition of “rough diamonds” and, consequently semi-cut diamonds remain subject to the requirements of the KPCS.
Polishing a single or a few small facets will not transform rough diamonds into polished diamonds and make these “fall off the KPCS’ radar” as was reported in the media. Rather, semi-cut diamonds are regarded as rough diamonds and their import or export remains subject to the requirements of the KPCS.
In case of uncertainty, information on what constitutes a rough diamond is included in the Explanatory Notes to the HS-Coding System (Heading 7102) available at the WCO or at your local customs agency, the local Kimberley Process Authority or the KP Working Group of Diamond Experts.
by Admin on December 3rd, 2009
This holiday season Whiteflash is beginning an initiative to educate consumers about conflict diamonds and how to purchase socially conscious gifts for your loved ones this holiday. Whiteflash.com introduces “Green Love” this holiday season. As an online e-tailor we know that it is all about your peace of mind and your wallet. Right now if you order any Whiteflash conflict free diamond or enter on our sweepstakes page (no purchase necessary) during the period of November 29th to January 25th you will be automatically entered to win your choice of Mini Dreams of Africa pendant or Dreams of Africa ® earrings made with Whiteflash A Cut Above ® melee diamonds in your choice of white or yellow gold. Two lucky winners will be selected.
All you need to do is enter and get the chance to win a Dreams of Africa diamond pendant or diamond earrings just in time for the holidays. Enter to Win here: http://www.whiteflash.com/info/greenlove.aspx
Prizes And Value: There will be TWO (2) winners, a Grand Prize Winner and a First Prize Winner.
Grand Prize. The Grand Prize is a Mini-Dreams of Africa® Diamond Pendant in 18 Carat Gold set with 20 Whiteflash A Cut Above ® Diamond Melee (0.30ctw; Color: F/G, Clarity: VS) . Approximate Retail Value (”ARV”) is $1,400.
First Prize. The First Prize is a pair of Dreams of Africa® Diamonds for Life Diamond Earrings in 18 Carat Gold set with 6 Whiteflash ACA Diamond Melee (0.15ctw). ARV is $300.
Pictures of Dreams of Africa Diamond Jewelry Below:
by Admin on December 3rd, 2009
Gareth Penny, managing director of De Beers, today announced that the shareholders of Debswana — the government of the Republic of Botswana and De Beers — had given the green light to proceed with a major extension project at Jwaneng, the world’s flagship diamond mine. The project, also known as Cut 8, is a key component of Debswana’s North Star strategy and is the largest single capital commitment ever made in the private sector of Botswana.
Cut 8 will ensure profitable and continuous production at the mine until at least 2025. Debswana will invest $500 million in capital expenditure and taking into account all project stages — including feasibility, design, implementation and mining operations, as well as the cost of the plant and equipment — the estimated project investment is likely to total $3 billion during the next 15 years.
At its peak, the project will create more than 1,000 jobs. The development will require the removal of more than 700 million tons of waste between 2010 and 2024, exposing an additional 78 million tons of diamond-bearing ore, and deepening the Jwaneng pit to a depth of 650 meters. It is anticipated that this will create access to an additional 95 million carats, which could be worth more than $15 billion over the lifespan of the mine.
Speaking at an industry town hall meeting in Gaborone, Botswana this afternoon, Penny said, “Successfully managing a project of this magnitude and bringing it in on time, on budget, with zero harm to persons and property and at a minimal impact to the environment requires a dedicated and steadfast team. The De Beers board has every confidence in Debswana’s ability to implement the project to these exacting standards and generate the returns expected.”
He continued, “This project affirms Jwaneng’s unparalleled status as the richest diamond mine, by value, in the world. In the words of the former president of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire, Jwaneng remains a true ‘Prince of Mines.’”
During his presentation at the Town Hall, Penny noted that demand for diamonds had been consistently increasing for many years and as the world recovers from the recession, this trend is expected to continue in the long term — particularly as more high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) emerge in the developing markets of China and India. At the same time, there have been no new major diamond discoveries in more than a decade and the growing demand is likely to significantly outpace what is forecast to be lower levels of diamond supply for many years to come.
The Jwaneng mine contributes approximately 70 percent of Debswana’s total revenue. Diamonds from Debswana, in turn, contribute 50 percent of public revenue, 33 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) and more than 80 percent of foreign earnings for Botswana.