Concern has been expressed at the construction of a new airstrip in the controversial Marange diamond field of Manicaland province, Zimbabwe, by firms working there in partnership with the Harare government.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper quoted British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mark Canning as saying diplomats in Harare were closely following developments in Marange, in particular the construction of the runway which seems long enough to accommodate jets, with a new control tower already completed.
"The situation in Marange is of continual concern," said Canning. "What this [airstrip] is at this stage is anyone's guess, but it's crystal clear that the proceeds of a rich diamond field which has the potential to transform the fortunes of this country are being channeled into a handful of well lined pockets."
Lawyers for British firm African Consolidated Resources said they were also concerned as they seek restoration of their client’s mining rights in Marange.
But former Kimberly Process Certification Scheme Chairman Bernard Esau told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that he does not regard the construction of a new runway in Marange as a sinister development.
Human Rights Watch has reported massive human rights violations by military units controlling the rich alluvial deposits, including hundreds of killings, rapes, beatings and forced labor by men, women and children.
The Kimberly Process late last year declined to suspend Zimbabwe from the multinational organization, which would effectively bar the international sale of diamonds from the country, but demanded that a Kimberly monitor be put in place to oversee the mining and export of diamonds.
Such a monitor has yet to be appointed. The European Union proposed a British monitor, but Harare refused to accept the candidate, demanding that the position be filled by an African. The government has meanwhile designated a Namibian firm to value diamonds from the Marange field.