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Reports That Zimbabwe Court Cleared Sale of Marange Diamonds Are False, Says ACR

Apr 29, 2010 6:22 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... Reports that Zimbabwe’s High Court has cleared the sale of a stockpile of diamonds mined from the Marange fields by evicted British company African Consolidated Resources are incorrect, according to the company's chief executive officer (CEO), Andrew Cranswick.

“It is simply a lie,” Cranswick told Rapaport News. “The judge dismissed our urgency application to prevent such a sale, but made no comment on the actual case.”

Government agencies in 2009 attempted to export 129,031 diamonds mined by ACR during its tenure at Marange, which were being held at the Reserve Bank. ACR submitted an urgent application to the High Court to stop the prospective sale, reasoning that the High Court in September upheld the company’s rights to fields. While that judgment has been appealed at the Zimbabwe Supreme Court, Cranswick stressed that any sale of Marange goods would be of “stolen goods.”

The sale was subsequently stopped following reports of widespread human rights abuses at the field, which, at the time, called Zimbabwe’s membership of the Kimberley Process (KP) into question.

Zimbabwe averted KP suspension in November by agreeing to a working program designed to bring the country into compliance with the organization's standards. At the same time, Zimbabwe announced that it had recruited two companies, Canadile Miners and Mbada Diamonds, to operate separate zones of the fields in partnership with state-owned Marange Resources. As a result, the Marange stockpile had grown to 2.7 million carats by February 2010, according to a report submitted by Abbey Chikane, the KP's monitor for Marange.

Chikane also listed the technical requirements that need to be met by Canadile and Mbada to bring their operations into compliance so that the KP can then clear them for export.

Cranswick explained that according to the High Court ruling that confirmed ACR’s rights to the fields, the 4.4 million carats really belong to ACR and should be held in the neutral location provided by the Reserve Bank's vaults until the Supreme Court rules on the matter of ownership.

“We’ve applied for an interdict against the sale of the stockpile and we don’t differentiate between the 130,000 carats we mined and those diamonds mined by other companies,” Cranswick said. “The High Court ruled that all diamonds from Marange be surrendered to the Reserve Bank and that all mining activity cease until the matter is heard [by the Supreme Court].”

“Neither of these instructions was obeyed and they clearly intend to sell the diamonds regardless,” he added.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, told state media this week that the government would “benefit from our diamonds, whether with the Kimberley Process or not.”

Should such a sale be cleared, Cranswick urged the diamond industry to refrain from buying these goods, warning that ACR would sue and seek criminal prosecution for the trade in stolen goods against anyone known to have bought Marange diamonds.He stressed, however, that the matter was still on the table and all that the judge did this week was to rule that the matter lacked sufficient urgency.

Chikane is expected to visit Marange shortly for a progress inspection and the KP is anticipated to conduct a review visit there before June. No official date has been set yet for either visit.

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Tags: Avi Krawitz, Abbey Chikane, African Consolidated Resourcs, Avi Krawitz, Compliance, Government, Kimberley Process, Marange Fields, Zimbabwe
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