Zimbabwe’s River Ranch Diamond Mine cleared of illegal diamond trade
The World Diamond Council has backtracked on its earlier condemnation of River Ranch Diamond Mine, leading to suspicion and doubt about the authenticity of its original source of information.
In December last year, council chairman Mr Eli Izhakoff wrote to the European Union, which is the chair of the Kimberly Process, alerting it to warn all diamond importing countries to inspect their parcels originating from Southern Africa to make sure that they did not contain Zimbabwean production.
The WDC took the action following reports that rough diamonds from Zimbabwe’s kimberlite River Ranch Mine n ear Beitbridge and alluvial diamonds from Marange were possibly being smuggled illegally into South Africa for official export with validation of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).
The alert — which effectively meant blacklisting of Zimbabwe’s diamonds — was issued without any prior investigation to assess the true situation on the ground in Zimbabwe.
River Ranch, through its legal consultant Retired Justice George Smith, then wrote to the WDC expressing dismay at the council’s lack of professionalism by taking as fact the allegations that the mining establishment had smuggled diamonds into South Africa.
However, in a letter responding to River Ranch’s complaints, Mr Izhakoff has now climbed down, saying the council had at no time stated that the company was involved in smuggling.
”˜The WDC does not, nor has it ever, taken a position that River Ranch Diamond Mine is itself in any way involved in such activity.
“No factual conclusion or assertions were offered in the letter,” wrote Mr Izhakoff, referring to the letter that he had written to the EU.
Government also took a swipe at the council for taking a “political stance” against Zimbabwe by accepting as true the rumours that rough diamonds from the country were being smuggled to South Africa without first investigating and establishing the facts on the ground.
Speaking after touring River Ranch Mine last month, Minister of Mines and Mining Development Ambassador Amos Midzi described the lack of professionalism by the WDC as “pure madness which must be stopped before it gets out of hand”.
“We are aware that some of them have been looking for a reason to isolate Zimbabwe and now they think they have found one.
“As Zimbabwe, we abide by the law and we are a legitimate member of the Kimberly Process. At the recent meeting in Botswana, we invited the Kimberly Process president to come down to Zimbabwe to inspect for themselves and look at our records which are impeccable,” he said. The minister added that the Government had taken stringent measures against the illegal mining of alluvial diamonds in Marange.
In his letter, the WDC chairman goes further to praise the Zimbabwean Government for the measures it has taken to contain the illegal mining in Manicaland.
“The WDC is pleased to learn that the Government of Zimbabwe acted promptly to address these concerns within the KPCS mechanism.
“I also take note of the submission of the Zimbabwe authorities to the Kimberley Process working group on monitoring. These steps are appropriate and very encouraging
“I expect the KP chair (EU) will, in due course, report on its findings and I look forward to any remaining uncertainties being resolved to the satisfaction of all parties concerned,” added Mr Izhakoff.
River Ranch authorities have always strongly denied allegations of smuggling diamonds out of the country, saying that they have not exported any diamonds since they resumed production in June last year; and when they eventually do export, it would be done legally in full compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).
Addressing a Press conference last month, Justice Smith said that it was clear that the allegations meant to tarnish their name were being fabricated by their rivals at Bubye Minerals with whom they have been embroiled in a legal wrangle over a special grant for the past two years.
At the beginning of last month, the High Court ruled that River Ranch was the rightful owner of the special grant, dismissing Bubye’s application to have the rights ceded to them and stop the former from conducting any mining operations at the site.
Bubye has since appealed against the judgment to the Supreme Court.
River Ranch has since laid criminal charges against Bubye Minerals directors Michael and Adele Farquhar for gross asset striping at the mine and externalisation of foreign exchanage.