India purchases 83 percent of Zimbabwe diamonds


Industry players yesterday told a leading market watcher, the IDEX Online, that Indian buyers bought US$60 million worth of the gemstones from the auction which raised a total of about US$72 million.

According to Zimbabwean government officials buyers from the United States, Lebanon, Russia and Israel took part in the diamond auction that went ahead only after the Kimberley Process (KP) lifted a ban imposed on the Zimbabwe stone10 months ago following reports of human rights abuses by security forces guarding the Marange mines.

The report released yesterday quoted one leading investor as saying; “we look forward to future imports from Zimbabwe”.

Investors from the Asian country however expressed concern that a flood of goods from diamond-rich Zimbabwe will erode diamonds prices.

The report by IDEX Online came as Indian ambassador to Zimbabwe Venkatesan Ashok has indicated that his country was willing to invest in the Zimbabwe’s diamond sector.

"We have been good friends for generations, even in bad times, and India will continue to assist Zimbabwe in its economic turnaround,” he said in a recent interview.

“India is prepared to maintain its historically close bilateral relations with Zimbabwe and further consolidate them in order to assist the country’s capacity building efforts to improve its economy and technology," said Ashok, explaining that India’s large diamond polishing industry will be beneficial to Zimbabwe’s diamond industry.

The news of India’s heavy involvement in last week’s auction will be most welcome by Zimbabwean authorities, who on Monday said they would look to Asia’s economic giants and Russia for a market for its diamonds after a major Western diamond trading network said it would ban the Marange stones.

The US-based Rapaport Diamond Trading Network (RapNet) advised its members to boycott diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange fields, threatening to expel and blacklist anyone who violated the ban on trading in gems from the controversial area.

But Mines Minister Obert Mpofu dismissed the ban saying Zimbabwe could alternative buyers of its stones from Russia and Asia. 

The Marange gems have divided world opinion, with African and Asian countries backing Zimbabwe’s bid to sell the diamonds, while the West and rights groups opposed the sale, charging that the military killed several people while driving out illegal miners from the fields in 2008.

Zimbabwe finally won its battle to sell the Marange diamonds after President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s MDC put up a united front urging the West to drop its opposition to the auctioning of the gemstones at a World Diamond Council meeting last month in Russia.