In 2010, the influential New York-based Rapaport Diamond Trading Network instructed its members to boycott the Marange stones, citing alleged human rights abuses.
Then a year later, on December 9 2011, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds – two companies in which the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) had interests.
All the while, Zimbabwe had to fend off repeated bids to classify the Marange gems “blood diamonds.”
In June, at the Kimberley Process (KP) reform meetings in Mumbai, India, the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC), a coalition of rights groups involved in the diamond industry, lobbied for a new definition of conflict diamonds that would restrict market access for Zimbabwean gems if applied.
In 2018, KPCSC said “we find it extremely difficult to classify Zimbabwe’s Marange diamonds as conflict free” due to the security measures in the area. Earlier this year, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a KPCSC member organisation based in Manicaland, appealed to the UN to classify Zimbabwean stones as “blood diamonds”.
In April, Tiffany’s the leading US jeweller, said it would not buy diamonds from Angola and Zimbabwe. Apart from ethical considerations for the company, under US measures on Zimbabwe, American companies such as Tiffany’s still cannot buy diamonds from the country.
Zimbabwe, whose peak diamond output reached 12 million carats in 2012, is targeting 4.1 million carat production in 2019.
The latest move by the US comes as Zimbabwe prepares for its biggest auction, of up to 500 000 carats, of the year.
The country has held three auctions so far this year, the last of which was held between September 9 and 13. The country expects US$100 million diamond revenue this year, up from 2018’s US$28 million.
Three years after shutting the door on private companies operating in Marange, government has once again handed diamond concessions to Russia’s Alrosa, China’s Anjin and the London-listed Vast Resources.
In his 2019 budget statement, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube announced that Zimbabwe would join the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, a global standard for the extractive resources under which Zimbabwe would be compelled to more openly disclose data on minerals, production and earnings. However, critics say implementation of the standard has been slow.-NewZwire/Own