Diamond mining giant De Beers has dismissed as outrageous charges launched last week by Zimbabwe's minister of mines saying the firm looted diamonds from the Marange field for nearly a decade when it held a concession to exploit the eastern zone.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu and Deputy Mines Minister Gift Chimanikire said they were convinced that De Beers plundered the Marange alluvial field prompting Harare to set up an expert panel to probe De Beers activity during the period of its concession.
Mpofu charged that De Beers extracted large amounts of rough stones from the Marange field while telling the government it was only prospecting with little success.
Some observers say Mpofu has launched the charges against De Beers to deflect accusations that the Marange field, controlled by the Zimbabwean military, is currently being looted by a clique with close ties to his ZANU-PF party.
De Beers International Relations Director Andrew Bone told VOA reporter Sandra Nyaira in an interview from New York that although the company held rights in Marange for just under 10 years, it was only active in the zone for two and decided not to continue as it preferred to work deep Kimberlite deposits rather than alluvial diamond fields.
Bone added that there is no way Harare would not have known of such a huge operation if it had existed, adding that it would also have been strange for De Beers to give up its license in 2006 if it had been extracting as many stones as Mpofu charges.
"Prospecting is not mining. Mining requires a great deal of investment and the use and import of heavy machinery, and a great deal logistical support from road and air," Bone said. "The Zimbabwean authorities would have been more than aware of any such activity. The fact they weren't indicates De Beers did not carry out any mining."
Bone added: "In addition, industrial mining of the scale indicated would have left behind a great deal of physical evidence, none of which has been produced."
Bone said De Beers would like to see Zimbabwe comply fully with the Kimberley Process as this would allow Zimbabweans to benefit from this 7rich natural resource.
"Official diamond exports, authorized by the Kimberley Process, will allow the Zimbabwean people to benefit and realize the full value of this valuable natural resource and provide access to the world's markets," Bone said.7
Democracy and Governance Manager Joy Mabenge of the Institute for Democratic Alternatives for Zimbabwe said the absence of transparent monitoring of mining activity under the previous ZANU-PF government led to the current dispute.