We have heard many lab-grown sellers talk about the ethics of their products. And we have natural diamond companies’ rejoinders to those claims.
But we don’t often hear from the people who actually work in diamond mines and fields, whose living depends on diamonds.
For Dorothée Gizenga (pictured), executive director of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), that crucial voice is missing. Her group has long advocated to improve conditions in the diamond fields.
In a statement her group issued last month, the DDI professed unease that lab-grown diamonds are now marketed as “ethical.” Gizenga worries that if diamond mining disappears—which some now actively hope for—it could have potentially horrific consequences for millions of people in some of the poorest countries in the world. It would be even more ironic if such catastrophic events occurred in the name of “ethics.”
“Artisanal diamond mining is the livelihood of millions of people,” Gizenga says. “They have an average of 10 dependents, including children. That is a significant amount of people depending on this industry. For them, that is the only livelihood that is available.”
These concerns are sometimes flippantly, or even callously, dismissed by lab-grown manufacturers. But they are real, they are not abstractions, and can’t be simply rationalized away.
Gizenga comes from NGO Partnership Africa Canada (now IMPACT), which was one of the original groups that publicized the blood diamonds issue. She is well aware of the dark side of diamond mining.
But she also says her group has made real progress in the diamond digging areas. It has developed the Maendeleo Diamond Standards, which lay out ways to improve working conditions and mitigate environmental impact in the diamond fields. A new pilot with Gemfair helps get miners better prices for what they find.
“The miners are actually eager to have better working conditions,” she says. “They are very thankful for it.”