Zim auctions Marange diamonds

2010-01-07 15:33

Harare - Zimbabwe on Thursday began auctioning 300 000 carats of diamonds from its controversial eastern diamond fields where the army has been accused of rights abuses against civilians.

"The auction has started after shortlisted companies were vetted and authorised to be part of the auction," a senior official in the diamond industry told AFP.

"The auctioning of the diamonds is expected to take three days."

In November, Zimbabwe escaped a Kimberley Process ban despite calls for the country to be suspended over abuses in Marange, with the global body giving Harare a June 2010 deadline to make reforms to comply with its regulations.

The southern African country went into partnership with two South African-owned firms to extract diamonds last October.

The chairman of Mbada Diamonds, a subsidiary of one of the South African firms, said the auction will earn the government 80% of the total sales revenue and be followed by a similar sale next week.

"The entire process of mining, transportation to marketing is being done in compliance with the requirements of the Kimberley Process," Robert Mhlanga told the state-run Herald.

In November, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said the army and police had withdrawn from the fields and that Zimbabwe had complied with more than 90% of the reforms set by the "conflict diamond" watchdog.