Photo: Diamond Development Initiative
Sustainable Development for Artisanal Diamond Miners
What is happening today in the diamond business? A few years ago the appalling human tragedy in Sierra Leone – fuelled by ‘blood’ diamonds – was front of mind. The international diamond industry, concerned that consumers would turn against its luxury product, joined governments and civil society in the Kimberley Process to eradicate the trade in conflict diamonds.
While we celebrate that unique tripartite collaboration, which now makes diamonds the most regulated of commodities, there remains deep concern over the problem and plight of the millions of people in Africa and South America who work as artisans (“diggers”) in the alluvial diamond and gold mining sector.
The Kimberley Process does not address human rights abuses or social degradation. For the workers not much has changed, as they labour in arduous and highly dangerous conditions for paltry reward. Their communities are trapped in abject poverty, exploited and abused.
Just as those in the industry and in governments – spurred on by the NGOs – came to recognise the moral imperative to act decisively over conflict diamonds, we must now deal with this remaining injustice. In Africa alone at least one million diamond diggers and their families survive on an average of two dollars a day, unregistered, unregulated and unprotected. Approximately 15% of the world’s rough diamonds come from these sources. A similar situation exists in the gold sector, where an estimated 12% of global production is from artisanal miners, whose lives are further blighted by the uncontrolled use of mercury in gold recovery.
What is to be done? The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) is a multi-stakeholder organisation that exists to address the political, social and economic challenges facing artisanal mining, bringing NGOs, governments and the private sector together to create sustainable development for the diggers and their communities.
DDI researches and disseminates information on the seemingly intractable challenges of artisanal mining. It promotes better understanding of, and solutions for, government and mining regulation, proper organisation of artisanal production, legitimate and transparent distribution channels, free and open markets for artisanal mined diamonds, and wide participation in the process, including not only governments and industry, but also the local communities themselves, donors and development organisations.
DDI is doing extraordinary and essential work in the field, with more than 100,000 diggers in the Democratic Republic of Congo already registered in a DDI led government scheme, and a development project in Sierra Leone which is empowering local diamond workers. These activities demonstrate that diamonds can provide a sustainable income for millions of people living in poverty in some of the most vulnerable places on earth.
‘Development Diamonds’ are produced responsibly and safely, with respect for human rights, with real benefits to the communities through the payment of fair prices, revenue for governments and recognition of the industry’s ethical integrity.
DDI is entirely dependent on the support and generosity of donors. It raised over US$600,000 last year from governments, industry bodies, companies and individuals, but it needs these funds every year just to maintain its current projects.
For more information on the vital work of DDI, please go to www.ddiglobal.org.