Antwerp--The first tender of rough diamonds from the Marange region of Zimbabwe in Antwerp will take place this week, Botswana-based diamond company First Element (Pty.) Ltd. announced.

The sale of rough will begin Wednesday and extend through Monday, total about 300,000 carats and include goods from Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Anjin Investments, Jinan and Kusena Diamonds.

This sale of Zimbabwean goods in Antwerp was made possible in September, when the European Union opted to lift sanctions against the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC). Diamonds from the ZMDC remain under sanction in the United States.

The move to lift sanctions drew criticism from non-governmental organizations, which claim that money from the diamond mines was used to fix the recent presidential elections in Zimbabwe in favor of Robert Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for three decades and is Africa’s long-serving leader.

The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), however, said the opening of the European market for Zimbabwe diamonds will create transparency and “contribute to sustainable social and economic development” in the country. The sale of goods also will “significantly reinforce” Antwerp’s position as a leading trading hub for diamonds, the AWDC said.

Reports of a possible tender of goods from Marange--the once-troubled area of the country that created a two-year stalemate in the Kimberley Process--in Antwerp first surfaced last month following meetings between Antwerp and Zimbabwean officials.

Last week, officials with the AWDC rebutted reports that the tender was taking place Dec. 5 to 12 and said they cannot confirm the dates as they were in “no rush” to hold the sale, even hinting that it may not take place until January. The release announcing the sale would be held this week went out Monday.

First Element Ltd. is based in Gaborone, Botswana, the capital of the country and the city where De Beers recently moved its sorting and sales operations, and provides cleaning, valuation, sorting and marketing/tendering services to the diamond industry. In addition to Gaborone, the company has offices in Johannesburg and Antwerp.

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