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Campaign groups urge monitoring of Zim mines

HARARE, July 16 – Campaign groups on Friday urged closer monitoring of diamond production in Zimbabwe after the Kimberley Process (KP) approved sales suspended over rights abuses at the country\’s biggest diamond fields.

"The ball is now in Zimbabwe\’s court to make good on its promises and act to end one of the most egregious cases of diamond-related violence for many years," Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness said in a statement.

The statement came after the KP countries at the 7th annual conference of the World Diamond Council in St Petersburg on Thursday approved the export of rough diamonds from Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe.

The diamond watchdog process had in January halted the sale of stones from the Marange diamond fields after documenting gross military abuses against civilians by soldiers guarding the mining works.

In a report ahead of a key meeting of the diamond watchdog in Tel Aviv last month, KP monitor Abbey Chikane said Zimbabwe had met minimum requirements to be eligible to trade in diamonds, but no decision was made until the meeting in Russia.

"We fervently hope that the governments in the Kimberley Process will, for their part, hold Zimbabwe to its commitments in order to begin to restore the battered integrity of the scheme," Dunneback said.

Another campaigner, Partnership Africa Canada, said that the agreement paving way for diamond sales from Marange was "far from perfect".

"This agreement is far from perfect and it will take considerable efforts by all parties to the Kimberley Process, especially Zimbabwe, to make it work.

"The system needs urgent and far-reaching reform at a time when consumers are demanding action on blood diamonds."

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Zimbabwe\’s President Robert Mugabe said on Tuesday that his country was projected to contribute around 25 percent of the global diamond output. He added that "there are huge prospects for the diamond sub-sector to emerge as a major driver of the country\’s economic turnaround".

Mining is Zimbabwe\’s main foreign currency earner. The country\’s finance minister on July 7 urged KP members to clear Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds, saying the government desperately needed the income.

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