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De Beers’ Marange ‘looting’ files missing
21/11/2011 00:00:00
by Business Day
 
Marange looted ... Obert Mpofu
 
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THE Zimbabwe government’s bid to sue global diamond giant De Beers over its "looting" of the controversial Marange diamonds remains uncertain as it has emerged that key documents that detail De Beers’ exploration have disappeared.

Led by Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu, Zimbabwe accuses De Beers of exploiting the Marange diamonds for more than 10 years, and is known to have been in the process of drafting a lawsuit against the diamond company.

But it has emerged that key documents that form the backbone of the Zimbabwe government’s case against De Beers, and are said to expose "massive looting and the shadowy exportation of mining samples from the Marange area", have gone missing.

It is understood that the Mining Promotion and Development Unit, a unit in the mines ministry, had kept the controversial documents. A senior official at the ministry highlighted that the crucial evidence could have been manipulated or destroyed to "advance certain interests".

Fuelling speculation is the sudden announcement last week of vacancies in the unit for the posts of director and deputy-director, which is thought to be linked to the disappearance of the documents.

A witch-hunt is said to be occurring in the mines ministry.

De Beers held mining rights in the Marange area from 1993 to 2006 before it sold them to local outfit Africa Consolidated Resources.

"De Beers were there at Marange for 13 years and they didn’t say they found diamonds in Zimbabwe. It does not take five minutes to find diamonds in Marange," Mpofu said.

"When the government started asking questions, De Beers left. Their withdrawal was so sudden. All the diamonds are not accounted for. They exported not hundreds but thousands of tons of diamonds without Kimberley Process Certification Scheme approval," Mpofu said.

De Beers has denied the government’s accusations. "As we have said repeatedly, these allegations are totally untrue," spokesman Innocent Mabusela said.

Zimbabwe has been given the green light to sell its controversial Marange diamonds, but De Beers has vowed not to buy any of the "low quality" diamonds — perceived to be an arm-twisting tactic.

Economist Eric Bloch said: "The feud between Zimbabwe and De Beers over the diamonds is political, it’s nothing more than just petty politics at play.



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“With De Beers having control of nearly a third of global rough diamonds, shunning Zimbabwe’s diamonds could put a dent on the country’s prospects of earning revenue of $2bn from the sale of its Marange diamonds.”


 
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