HARARE (Reuters) - Chinese-owned Anjin Investments has started selling its 2 million carats of stockpiled diamonds mined in Zimbabwe after global gem regulator Kimberley Process allowed the firm last month to begin exports, state media reported on Tuesday.
The Kimberley Process last month paved the way for Zimbabwe to sell diamonds from Marange fields after the United States, Canada and the European Union dropped their objections, ending two years of dispute that divided the Kimberley Process.
The United States said it had agreed to a compromise for the export of gems that human rights groups say are tainted by abuses, to prevent the paralysis of the global system for stopping trade in "blood diamonds".
On Tuesday, the government controlled Herald newspaper reported that Anjin had held an auction with foreign buyers in Harare on Monday, which was expected to continue on Tuesday.
"The response from the buyers was pleasing. The buyers were from various countries in the world," Prince Mupazviriho, a permanent secretary in the ministry of mines told the paper.
Mupazviriho was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
There are five companies with licences in Marange, but only three are mining diamonds, namely state-owned Marange Resources, state joint venture firm Mbada Diamonds and Anjin.
Security forces seized the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe in 2008 and human rights groups say at least 200 illegal miners were killed and that smuggling is rife and some mines remain in military hands -- all charges denied by Harare.
Last year, Zimbabwe was allowed by the Kimberley Process to sell a small amount of diamonds but the United States, Canada and EU said then human rights issues still remained.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti said in a budget statement last month the government would get $600 million in diamond revenue.
On Monday, campaign group Global Witness pulled out of the Kimberley Process, calling the scheme outdated and a failure, almost nine years after its launch.
Global Witness said part of its reason for pulling out was the unwillingness by the Kimberley Process "to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe".
Zimbabwe's Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said he was not surprised by the move by Global Witness.
"Now that Zimbabwe has been fully admitted on the international market, they have no work to do," Mpofu told the Herald newspaper.
"They survived on opposing trading of Zimbabwean diamonds."