Zimbabwe now top world diamond producer
Zimbabwe is now ranked among the top 10 diamond producers in the world with gems worth US$334 million produced last year, up from US$20,4 million in 2009, according to reports.
The southern African country only discovered what experts said could be the largest diamond fields in the world about six years ago.
But the effective exploitation of the fields has been hampered by alleged human rights violations that have seen Zimbabwe being restricted by the Kimberly Process (KP) from exporting its diamonds.
The controversy over Zimbabwe’s so-called blood diamonds intensified on Monday when BBC aired a documentary exposing human rights violations at the Marange diamond fields.
Data released by the KP, the regulator in world diamond trade, showed that Zimbabwe was now the seventh biggest producer of the gem stones by value.
Botswana is still the world’s top gem producer after its mines churned out US$2.5 billion worth of diamonds, followed by Russia with US$2.38-billion, Canada (US$2.3-billion), South Africa (US$1.8-billion), Angola (US$976-million) and Namibia (US$744-million).
Despite Zimbabwe’s entry into the top 10, diamond production is riddled with corruption and allegations of torture camps at the?diamond fields.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti recently told parliament that Zimbabwe had between January to June exported 716 958,50 carats from its alluvial diamond mines in Marange, but the exports and revenues declared were not tallying.
Only US$103,9 million of diamond exports have been accounted for, compared to US$24, 8 million in the same period last year.
On Monday, Mines Minister, Obert Mpofu denied claims by the BBC that there were torture camps near the rich Marange diamond fields. The BBC’s Panorama show interviewed witnesses who said they were tortured at the military-run camps.
“We have no torture camps in Marange. This is just cheap propaganda from the BBC,” Mpofu said.
The latest allegations emerged as the EU prepared to lift a two year old ban on diamonds from Zimbabwe allowing government to cash in on the lucrative natural resource.
In 2009, officials acted on reports of large-scale killings and abuse by security forces in the Marange diamond fields in the east of the ?country by implementing a blanket ban on Zimbabwe’s diamonds.
However, the country was allowed to resume exports at the last KP meeting held in the DRC despite opposition by some Western countries.