De Beers to shun ‘low quality’ Zim diamonds

Diamond mining giant De Beers has indicated that it will not be selling stones mined at the controversial Chiadzwa alluvial fields in Zimbabwe, because of their ‘low quality’.

Stephen Lussier, the CEO of the high quality diamond side of De Beers, Forevermark, said at the launch of the brand in South Africa last week the diamonds are generally too small and low in quality for the brand to sell.

Lussier made no direct reference to concerns about the human rights standards of the mines, but said that Forevermark “carries a guarantee that the diamonds used for our products have contributed positively to communities, the environment and supply chains along the way.”

"In a diversifying and maturing industry, consumers seek more from their luxury purchases. Not only do they demand value for money, but there is increasing interest in the source of their purchase and the journey it has travelled. Forevermark offers customers a promise of responsible sourcing, paired with rarity and beauty. Less than 1% of the world's diamonds are eligible to be branded Forevermark," he said.

De Beers for many years held an exploratory licence at Chiadzwa, but in 2006 claimed it had found nothing meaningful in terms of high quality diamonds. Earlier this year the Zim government reportedly launched an investigation into De Beer’s activities during its explorations, accusing the group of pilfering large quantities of diamonds.

Chiadzwa diamonds were meanwhile earlier this month given the green light to be put on sale, after almost two years of debate by members of the international trade watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP). KP members in 2009 fell short of banning Zimbabwe from diamond trade, despite evidence of murder and other abuses at Chiadzwa. Instead, the group gave Zimbabwe time to fall in line with minimum trade standards.

This included removing the military from the highly militarised diamond zone, ending human rights violations, and putting a stop to rampant smuggling. According to human rights groups and media reports, none of this has happened. But the KP, in an apparent effort to save face in the diamond industry, more than a week ago cleared Zimbabwe to resume exporting.

The decision has been slammed by civil society for appearing to sideline the critical issues of human rights and smuggling, which Zimbabwe’s Mines Minister Obert Mpofu has since admitted is still rife. Meanwhile, some diamond groups have already indicated they will not take part in Zimbabwe’s trade. The US based Rapnet diamond trade network has warned its members not to purchase the diamonds, saying in a trade alert that “diamonds from these sources have been involved in human rights abuses.”

– SW Radio Africa News

Post published in: News

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