Armed police and guardians built vaults at the main Harare airport where several private jets bring buyers from India, Lebanon, Israel and Russia.
Abbey Chikane, Zimbabwe monitor of the world diamond control body, certified the diamonds ready for sale today.
Investigators said that last year the gems were mined at the Marange diamond fields by virtual slaves who had been told to dig or die, and were smuggled out by soldiers who raped and beat civilians. Yet the Kimberley Process, of the diamond body, said those gems did not qualify as “blood diamonds.”
Zimbabwe’s mines ministry accuses human rights groups of “peddling falsehoods” over rights violations.
No estimated value was given for stones, although unofficial estimates range up to 1.5bn USD.
The eastern alluvial diamond fields were uncovered in 2006 and are estimated to be able to meet a quarter of the world’s demand for diamonds. The find is described as the biggest in southern Africa since diamonds were discovered at Kimberley in South Africa a century ago.