HARARE (REUTERS) –
Zimbabwe has so far this year produced 2 million carats of diamonds from its controversial Marange fields, a government official said on Tuesday, a day after an international monitor arrived to review the mining operations.
Rights groups, which accuse Zimbabwe’s security forces of widespread attrocities in a bid to stop thousands of illegal miners on the poorly secured fields in the eastern part of the country have been pushing for a ban on Zimbabwean diamonds.
Ministry of Mines secretary Thankful Musukutwa told a parliamentary committee the government was complying with demands from diamond trade regulator Kimberly Process, which last year gave the country six months to improve conditions in Marange.
“We should be at 2 million carats now this year,” Musukutwa said when asked how many diamonds had been mined from Marange, adding that a consultant from diamond producer Namibia had been hired to help train Zimbabweans.
The government, through its mining arm Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, has partnered little known South African companies, Grandwell Holdings and Core Mining, to set up joint venture firm Mbada Diamonds to mine Marange diamonds.
Kimberly Process monitor Abbey Chikane, a South African, arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday and on Tuesday travelled to Marange to assess whether the government was complying with watchdog’s requirements, Musukutwa said.
Musukutwa said Chikane would then be able to certify Zimbabwe’s diamonds for export.
In January, the government stopped the auction of 300,000 carats of diamonds by Mbada Diamonds because the sale had not been sanctioned by the Kimberly Process.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe, Editing by Keiron Henderson)
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