Marange Diamond Protests: What the Industry Should Know
A company called Anjin is mining in Zimbabwe again, stirring up protests among area residents that resulted in 29 arrests.
More than two dozen locals who were protesting the operations of Anjin in Marange were arrested Nov. 2.
They have since been released, according to multiple sources in Zimbabwe, but Anjin’s presence in the area—and the issues locals have with it—are still a conversation the people who live in the Marange area want the trade to have.
Anjin is a joint venture between Chinese company Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group (AFECC) and Matt Bronze, an investment vehicle of the Zimbabwean military.
The company mined in Marange previously, from 2009-2016, before the government revoked mining licenses from the companies operating in the area and created its own Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC).
At the time it expelled Anjin, the government accused the company of looting billions of dollars’ worth of the country’s diamonds, an accusation it denied.
There were also claims of human rights violations surrounding Anjin in Zimbabwe, including destroying infrastructure like roads, schools, farmland, and sacred areas, as well as concerns over how it treated employees and allegations it left the country without paying local employees the money they were owed.
The Zimbabwe Independent reported that Anjin took over Portal B, a diamond-rich mining claim in Marange, under “unclear circumstances.”
Local news stories dating back to 2019 indicate the miner returned a few years ago. Shamiso Mtisi, coordinator of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition and deputy director at Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, confirmed these reports to National Jeweler.
Mtisi said Anjin has been re-establishing its operations in the area since then and possibly started mining for diamonds earlier than 2021, which is when Anjin claims formal mining operations resumed.
The return of a company with such a history in the country has angered locals.
The people of Marange responded with protests starting in late October, according to the Marange Women’s Alliance (MWA), which is sponsored by the Responsible Jewelry Transformative.
They were protesting that local communities weren’t consulted before Anjin returned, nor were they compensated for Anjin moving onto their land.
Additionally, Anjin’s return has caused problems between clans, the women of MWA told National Jeweler, since Anjin asked one clan to perform an important ceremony calling on their ancestors for prosperity on another clan’s lands.
The protestors were hoping their actions would force Anjin to meet with locals and hear their concerns, but when area residents were asked to meet with Anjin officials, 29 of them, including a local leader, were instead arrested.
No contact information for Anjin or AFECC could be found online to reach out to for comment on the recent protests and arrested in Zimbabwe.
🇿🇼Headman Chiadzwa Mbundire of Marange arrested for protests against a Chinese company mining diamonds in his area. Over a decade ago we @hrw documented abuses in Marange. https://t.co/K5ex1YfpuA pic.twitter.com/wB0mGIkk09— Dewa Mavhinga (@dewamavhinga) November 3, 2021
“Government should have engaged (the local communities) and found an amicable solution,” Maguwu said.
Both the Marange Women’s Alliance and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (via Twitter) confirmed the 29 individuals who were arrested have been released on bail but were served with restraining orders to stay 100 feet away from the mining concession.
The Marange Women’s Alliance told National Jeweler there doesn’t appear to be any plans for negotiations at this time.
A tweet from the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association indicated the case had been remanded in the courts until Nov. 22.
“The incident and arrests points to deep-seated unease between the community and the company,” Maguwu said. “The diamond industry must call on the government of Zimbabwe to respect the rights of local people—among them, the right to development.”
Marange has been in the headlines since diamonds were discovered there in 2006.
Maguwu has been calling attention to issues in the area for a long time, recently in an August column for Rapaport, in which he declared the Kimberley Process “continues to greenwash the country’s conflict diamonds.”
The Kimberly Process imposed an export ban on Marange diamonds in November 2009, but just two years later formerly approved the export of diamonds through two companies—Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources.
Both companies were added to the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions list and still are on it, according to the OFAC website.
The timing of the recent protests and arrests putting Marange in the spotlight once again comes just as the Kimberly Process kicks off its 2021 Plenary meeting (Nov. 8-12), hosted by the Russian Federation, the current chair.
National Jeweler reached out to the World Diamond Council for comment on the situation but WDC President Edward Asscher deferred comment until after the meeting.
In a Monday press release, though, the WDC said Asscher reasserted the need for KP members to agree to expand the definition of “conflict diamond” at the meeting’s opening session to support long-term consumer confidence.
The KP Civil Society Coalition said it plans to make the developments in Zimbabwe part of the event’s conversation, Mtisi recently confirmed to National Jeweler.
The coalition opened the meeting Monday with what it termed a “reality check,” and provided important updates, including both promising as well as worrying developments from diamond-producing countries.
In a recent editorial on JCKOnline.com, longtime industry journalist Rob Bates argued the KP isn’t likely to address such issues, however, and instead offered two other solutions for the trade from industry experts as well as a few ideas of his own.
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