Zimbabwe sells first diamonds in Antwerp, gem quality low

30 December 2013 | Business

Zimbabwe’s first-ever diamond auction in Belgium got off to a slow start this week with the majority of the 279 723 carat gems being of low quality and not properly cleaned, a senior government official said on Friday. The Antwerp auction comes three months after the European Union removed sanctions on the country’s state mining company. Mines ministry permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga said diamonds from five companies operating in the eastern Marange area had been sold for US$10.7 million (N$110.2 million), of which 15% went to the government as royalties. “Overall, 89% of the goods offered consisted of low quality industrial goods. In general, goods weren’t optimally cleaned, sorted and parcels were not ideally composed,” he said in a statement. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced an increase in royalty fees to 15% from 10% in his budget on Thursday as the government seeks to boost declining revenues. The Marange diamond fields, 400 km east of Harare, have been the focus of controversy since 20 000 small-scale miners invaded the area in 2008 and were then forcibly removed by soldiers and police. Human rights groups say up to 200 people were killed during their removal, charges denied by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

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