Global Policy Forum

Angola: New Body to Monitor Diamond-Mining Sector

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
February 19, 2004


The Angolan government has set up a new security body to monitor the lucrative but loosely controlled diamond-mining sector. A newly established security agency, the Corpo de Seguranca de Diamantes (CSD), will monitor the storing, classification and transportation of diamonds.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said this week that control of diamond security in the past "has been allocated to several people or groups within the ruling elite, sometimes in partnerships with foreign firms. The CSD will be under the control of the domestic intelligence services."

According to the EIU report, "A major shake-up of the Angolan diamond industry is continuing, as the government seeks to centralise and strengthen control over a sector plagued by warlordism and unregulated competition between tens of thousands of small-scale diggers and official mining operations."

As part of ongoing efforts to curb illegal diamond trafficking, the Angolan army arrested 700 people during an operation in the central province of Bie in December, and some 10,000 illegal Congolese diamond miners were expelled. Angola recently apologised for the treatment of the Congolese miners during the crackdown, acknowledging that "excesses" were committed by its soldiers.

An independent risk analyst, Johann Smith, described the operation as an attempt by the government to take control of the alluvial diamond mining operations. The former rebel movement, UNITA, used the proceeds of illegal mining to fund its war against the government.

Smith said the clampdown on illegal traffickers was the result of cooperation between the presidency, the secret service, several ministries and Angola's public diamond enterprise, ENDIAMA. "Most of the so-called illegal miners, some of them from South Africa, had actually received permits to mine from the governors of the various provinces, and had assumed they were mining legally," he explained. "The now-vacant mines, such as the ones in N'hrea [in the province of Bie], previously occupied by the small-scale miners, are now up for grabs."

The Angolan ambassador to South Africa, Isaac F Maria dos Anjos, said his government's intentions in removing the illegal miners, or "garimpeiros", was nothing other than "maintaining law and order, and looking after our ecological interests". He denied the involvement of government officials in the issuing of illegal permits. "These garimpeiros, by digging holes along our rivers, are destroying our countryside. When we try to take control, people have a problem," he said.

The garimpeiros operate mainly in the diamond-rich northern provinces of Lunda Norte, Malenje, Uije and the central province of Bie. "Bie is an agricultural province, and yet these illegal miners were found to be mining here," said dos Anjos. He stressed that the Angolan government was not clamping down on small-scale miners. "We have some 2,000 small-scale mining companies, some of them run by foreigners, across the country."

Angola is the fourth-largest diamond producer after Botswana, Russia and South Africa.




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