De Beers won't touch Zimbabwe diamonds

Business Live reports De Beers high-quality diamond retail arm Forevermark will not sell any diamonds from Zimbabwe's controversial Chiadzwa and fields, CEO Stephen Lussier said at the launch of the exclusive brand in South Africa.

This comes after the industry regulator, the Kimberley Process, gave Zimbabwe the green light to resume diamond exports from Marange last week. The decision is already being questioned, after the country's mines minister admitted on Thursday that smuggling was still rife.

International sales from Marange were banned in 2009 after hundreds were killed and thousands of local miners were driven off claims when the army seized control of the area and a recent report alleges that billions of dollars have found its way into a "parallel government" in Zimbabwe via the army, police, prisons and intelligence agencies which all have 'permits' to mine there.

Business Live quotes Lussier as saying the Marange diamonds were generally too small and low in quality for the brand to sell and in addition, Forevermark's selection process went well beyond adherence to the minimal standards of the Kimberley Process: "The Forevermark carries a guarantee that the diamonds used for our products have contributed positively to communities, the environment and supply chains along the way.

Zimbabwe is set to earn over $2 billion per year from exports with current diamond output estimated to be in excess of 25% of world production. Rough diamond prices have dropped by more than 10% over the last two months and is set to fall further as the first Marange diamonds come onto the market by the end of this month.

MINING.com reported this week Zimbabwe's mines minister was shocked to hear Zambia and Mozambique allegedly sought to join the Kimberley Process despite not having any diamond operations of their own: “We have information that a lot of our diamonds went through these countries. There are massive leakages at the border posts, but policing of the border is not the responsibility of the Mines Ministry."

MINING.com reported at the end of October on allegations that diamonds are funding a 'parallel government' in Zimbabwe. A presentation made to the Zimbabwean parliament details the secrecy, corruption and human rights abuses that accompany mining activities in the Marange alluvial diamond fields.