Global Policy Forum

Zimbabwe Accuses De Beers of Looting Diamonds


By Business Editor

March 5, 2010

THE government has accused the region's biggest mining giant, South Africa's De Beers, of looting tonnes of diamonds from the Chiadzwa mining fields over a period of 15 years without notifying the state of the discovery of the gems. The government is alleging that it could have lost billions of dollars in revenue from the "looting" of the diamonds by De Beers.

"De Beers looted our diamonds for 15 years and were sending them to South Africa without our knowledge and they had even declared that area a restricted area, as if it was their land when the country belongs to us," Mpofu told journalists at the Bulawayo Press Club last week.
He said the government during that time believed that De Beers was only prospecting and carrying out tests when in reality the company was carrying out covert mining activities.

"Everyone knows that the diamonds at Chiadzwa are mined from the surface and De Beers was for the last 15 years alleging that they were doing prospecting and carrying out tests when in actual fact they were looting diamonds from Chiadzwa," Mpofu said.
According to Mpofu, De Beers pulled out of the country when government began a probe into the operations of the company after getting wind that there were diamonds at Chiadzwa and that De Beers was covertly mining at the site.

Questioned by the journalists on why the government cancelled the licence of African Consolidated Resources (ACR) which took over mining operations at Chiadzwa after De Beers pulled out, Mpofu said the government was aware of the links that ACR had with De Beers and wanted to stop the continued looting of the diamonds.

Mpofu said the manner in which ACR was licensed was irregular as due processes were not followed.  "ACR got the diamond fields at Chiadzwa from De Beers through a junior officer and there was no tender process put forward and there was no transparency in the whole process and as a government we can not sit back and watch our resources being plundered, we are not stupid," Mpofu said.

The government-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) last year partnered little-known Grandwell of South Africa to form Mbada Investments which took over mining of diamonds at the Chiadzwa field.  The ZMDC also partnered another little-known South African firm, Core Mining and Minerals, in a joint-venture operation trading as Canadile Miners to exploit the deposits.

The new partnerships have courted more controversy which has forced the world diamond industry watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP), to bar Zimbabwe from trading its diamonds.

The KP has given Zimbabwe until June this year to fall in line with international trade standards.  Mpofu warned that Zimbabwe will sell diamonds without Kimberley Process certification should the watchdog rule that efforts to comply with its standards are inadequate.

"If the KP is dissatisfied with our efforts and wants to be difficult saying that we have failed to comply with their requirements... we will not lose sleep, but rather we will just pull out (of the KP) and not lose anything," Mpofu said.

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