Angola diamond production triples

Diamond production in government-controlled regions of Angola is expected to triple to 600 million dollars this year, the geology and mines ministry announced Thursday.
Last year’s production of rough diamonds was valued at 200 million dollars, deputy mines minister Carlos Sumbula told the state-run Jornal de Angola newspaper.
The increase comes after a major government offensive to seize major diamond-producing regions from the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
The rebels ‘have lost almost all of the diamond-producing regions that they were exploiting,’ Sumbula said.
The government has claimed that it now has control of all the nation’s diamond mines, which UNITA had used to finance its side of the civil war.
Angola’s government has also tried to crack down on the black market for diamonds, by allowing only one company to sell gems mined here.
The recently formed Angola Selling Corporation (ASCORP) is a joint venture between Angola’s SODAIAM, Israel’s Wellox and Belgium’s Tais.
Before ASCORP was created, the government was losing nearly two million dollars a day to diamond sales on the black market, mostly by UNITA rebels, Sumbula said.
Illegal diamond sales are now down to about one million dollars a day, he said.
‘UNITA hardly has any diamond deposits to tap now. Now they are only selling part of their stocks,’ he said.
Diamonds are Angola’s second-largest export. Oil is the nation’s top export. Most oil wells are located in offshore waters, which are under government control. Their production is expected to reach one million barrels per day by the end of 2000.