The diamond industry needs to support programs to uplift its vast artisanal mining sector. The more than 1.5 million diamond diggers – predominantly in West Africa – and their estimated 10 million dependents, remain the most vulnerable population in the diamond supply chain. The industry’s apparent lack of awareness of this sector exposes its own vulnerabilities.
The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) is an organization dedicated to addressing the challenges facing the informal artisanal diamond mining sector. The recent appeal to the industry for financial support by Rory More O’Ferrall, honorary vice chairman of DDI, made at the World Diamond Congress (WDC) in Antwerp should not go unnoticed.
This column endorses both his appeal for financial support and DDI’s campaign to promote consumer demand for development diamonds mined by diggers participating in its program.
More O’Ferrall best described DDI’s function in an interview with Rapaport News on the sidelines of the WDC meetings: DDI exists to confront the political, social and economic challenges facing informal diamond diggers, bringing government, industry and civil society together to create a sustainable environment for the diggers and their communities. DDI promotes better government mining regulation, efficient organization of production, legitimate and transparent distribution channels, and free and open markets, he explained.
The goal of DDI’s work centers around bringing the diggers into an infrastructure that enables them to sell their diamonds through legitimate means. The idea is that by formalizing the sector, diggers should gain a fair price for their diamond recoveries and be better equipped to make a sustainable livelihood.
The alternative, which is still a reality for the majority, is that the diggers typically work for less than $2 a day – often for a middleman – and their diamonds are inevitably smuggled across the border where they’re eventually mixed with other goods, provided a Kimberley Process (KP) certificate, and sold in the global market. Generally, the diggers don’t have the capacity or know-how to sell the diamonds in the most effective or legitimate way.
“The goal of DDI’s work centers around bringing the diggers into an infrastructure that enables them to sell their diamonds through legitimate means.”
Today, the informal artisanal mining sector is responsible for an estimated 15 percent of global production. While there is no official data about the sector, it’s a fair assumption that a significant portion of these goods has been mined in appalling conditions, and with serious ethical and human rights question marks. They are subsequently traded in Antwerp, India, Israel, New York, Hong Kong and the like and then sold in consumer markets without thought to the diggers or the issues at the start of the supply chain.
Therefore, efforts to formalize the sector benefit both the diggers and the industry as the challenges facing these miners will inevitably reach the consumer conscience.
To date, DDI has registered around 100,000 diggers who are now a step closer to avoiding such vulnerabilities. Ngomesia Mayer-Kechom, DDI’s manager for international programs, explained that the registration process sets the basis for formalizing the sector by creating a database of individuals working in the sector. “You can’t formalize the sector if you don’t know who’s working in it,” he noted. The process can also involve providing assistance to create organizational structures and offering education regarding pricing and selling options, among other things.[one_third_last][/one_third_last]
“Today, the informal artisanal mining sector is responsible for an estimated 15 percent of global production. The registration process will set the basis for formalizing the sector by creating a database of individuals working in the sector.”