Diamond Mining in Southern Africa
The clanking of pickaxes and the rough sounds of engines fill the hot, arid air with a message; time to go to work. The diamond industry is a very popular, and surprisingly profitable one at that. The popularity of diamonds in the western world as a sign of wealth or status has made it really easy to find and mine gem into a powerhouse for both the entirety of southern Africa’s economy, and the funding of rebel groups within. The value of the diamond has also brought to light the use of unethical methods of obtaining these diamonds; slave labor.
Where and How?
According to the World Press, a non-profit news website, around 65% of the world’s diamond supply comes from southern Africa1, and where there are diamonds to be found, there is to be seen infrastructure, health care, education, particularly from the mines of Botswana. And while countries like Botswana, whom have a stable governments to support this type of revenue, there is a flip side to this coin. Blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds, are diamonds that have been mined by rebels and/or corrupt governments who sell these diamonds and then use the money to fund military operations and weaponry. The process of mining these types of diamonds is often through the use of slave labor of men, women, and children while under inhumane conditions. Due to these conditions, The Kimberley Process (KP) was formed by the United Nations to determine whenever or not a diamond was mined legitimately or if it was a conflict diamond. But, some countries, like zimbabwe, have twisted the rules of what it means to be a conflict diamond. Since the KP define a conflict diamond to be mined by a rebel or terrorist organization, zimbabwe’s military presence and misconduct of the the workers at the mines does not violate any mandates of the KP, effectively allowing them to trade with the other members of the KP, such as the big, technological powerhouses of the world: U.S, U.K, and so on.
Usage and Verification
The usage of diamonds is quite important in today’s technology, such as modern cutting, polishing and grinding, as pointed out by Chamber of Mines in South Africa2, without the huge diamond reserves in Africa, technology would be struggling to advance forward at the pace it currently is, and limiting humans to expand their knowledge. But not all of the diamonds are validated by KP standards. A survey made by the Amnesty International survey showed that about 83 percent of U.S jewelers say that their customers “rarely or never” ask about the source of their diamonds and that 56 percent of jewelry do not audit their diamonds to see if they are conflict diamonds, and the ones that do use the KP certification3. Because most jewelers don’t audit to check the legitimacy of their diamonds, they may have purchased from unethical operations and funded either a rebel group or a terrorist organization, both of which break UN policies.
Diamonds are both a sin and a blessing. On one hand, they offer technological advances, help fund functioning, non corrupt governments and allow its citizens to succeed. On the other hand they fund rebel/terrorist groups, cause unethical treatment of humans, and promote the greediness of companies. But you, the consumers, have the power to ask jewelers where there diamonds come from and if they are KP certified, and if your are not happy with diamonds, you can use another type of gem for the occasion instead, like sapphire, ruby, or emerald.
2. Schure, T. (2010, May 14). Blood Diamonds: Still Bloody. World Press Organization. Retrieved from http://www.worldpress.org/article.cfm/Blood-Diamonds-Still-Bloody