The first round of voting in the diamond rich country of the Central African Republic (CAR) has been cited as an ‘undeniable success’, according to the top United Nations official in the country. The landlocked country is rich with diamonds and minerals such as copper, gold and uranium. Diamond production is largely artisanal. According to an Antwerp-based research group, about a third of the country’s diamond shipments leave the country in secret.
The official said that there was a massive turnout in the country’s presidential and legislative elections, which marks a major step on the path to stability after two years of conflict between Muslims and Christians. Some of the fighting has occurred in diamond mining areas, and Amnesty International alleges that the illicit trafficking of diamonds in the country has helped finance the Seleka rebel groups who are fighting government forces.
The country was suspended from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in May 2013 when the country’s government was deposed by rebel forces. Two years later, KP Participants and Observers reached an understanding that CAR may commence exports of rough diamonds ‘upon full implementation of an “Operational Framework’” and pending completion of the KP Review Mission report.
In 2006, Energem Resources Inc. of Canada continued to focus on the development of suitable diamond prospects within its Bangana, Bria, Kotto, and Quadda concessions in the Haute-Kotto and Bamingui-Bangoran prefectures. Other companies exploring for diamond included Pangea Diamondfields Plc (Isle of Man), which planned to invest $3.2 million in a bulk sampling plant for its Dimbi (Basse-Kotto) project concession area, and Gem Diamonds Ltd. (UK), which held exploration and mining permits for the Mambéré river project near the city of Berberati.
What makes CAR unusual is the quality of its gemstones, prized not for industrial uses, like diamond-tipped, tunnel-cutting machines, but for use in jewelry and watches. Experts rank its diamond quality among the top five in the world. The country exported 378,000 carats of diamond in 2012, worth around $167.05 per carat, about $63 million.
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