Most diamonds conflict free – minister

More than 99% of diamonds traded globally are conflict free, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has said.

This had restored consumer confidence in the commodity, she said in a speech prepared for delivery in Kimberley.

Shabangu said South Africa hoped the Kimberley Process (KP) Certification Scheme (KPCS) would consolidate and accelerate its winning formula.

She was addressing a meeting of government, the diamond industry and civil society delegates, held to discuss control of the diamond trade.

Shabangu said everyone wanted to “redeem this rare and valuable commodity from being used as an instrument of maiming of innocent people”.

The Kimberley Process, currently chaired by South Africa, aims to make sure diamonds are not used to finance violence by “rebel movements and their allies”, through the KPCS.

Trade in rough diamonds is regulated between participants of the KPCS, and may only proceed with a certificate.

Shabangu congratulated China for being elected chair of the Kimberley Process for 2014, and for being vice-chair in the current year.

She said vigilance was required to prevent illicit diamonds contaminating the legitimate diamond industry.

“Hence, our response to the prevailing situation in the Central African Republic, which serves as a valuable lesson and reminder of the primary objectives, which led to the establishment of the KP, is not completely dissipated and confirms the need to strengthen it.”

Thirteen South African soldiers died on March 23 when they came under attack during a rebellion there. A “transitional” government has since been installed.

Shabangu said the reforms should not lead to a situation that was tantamount to a licence to undermine the sovereignty of states, which the KP was established to protect.

She commended the UN for reviewing the exemption from sanctions in Cote d’Ivoire to enable securing samples of rough diamonds for scientific research purposes, coordinated by the KP.

This was to contribute to a “fingerprinting” project to determine the origin of diamonds.

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