Before we discuss ethically sourced diamonds, we need to clarify how diamond mining works. While most modern diamond mining is done by machine, there are a portion of diamond deposits in the Earth that aren’t accessible by these means. For these diamonds to be mined, miners are employed to dig the mines by hand in a method not dissimilar to methods used before technology advanced to allow an automated process. This is referred to as alluvial or artisanal mining. Alluvial mining is the center of the ethical diamond debate as these mines often operate with little oversight.
During alluvial mining, employees face dangerous work that exposes them to environmental hazards. In addition to the hard labor and danger of manual digging, workers often spend many hours a day standing in water and exposed to insects. Wages may be very low, or only paid if the miner produces a stone of considerably quality. Often, communities are built around these mining operations with little access to education or hospitals, which means that workers who are injured often suffer lack of medical care and children of the communities have little option other than working in the mine.
The treatment of diamond mine workers can be unimaginably inhumane if the mine owners don’t adhere to ethical standards in their practice. Workers of all ages are subjected to low wages, long hours, torture and even murder in cases of suspected theft. Children are often workers in poorly regulated diamond mines, and diamond mines have been subject to hostile takeover to fund internal war efforts.
The effects of unethical diamond mining are felt not only by the miners in the industry, but the surrounding community. Instances of violence to innocent bystanders have been recorded, and children often have little hope at receiving an education. Wages may be so low that children are required to work alongside their parents in order to survive.
Understandably, this has created concern and demand among the world’s jewelry buyers to halt the production of diamonds produced from mines that operate in this manner, and to ensure that the diamonds that are purchased do not support these practices.
While some artisanal miners suffer greatly in their position, it’s important to note that some of the mines have always been operated under ethical standards, and provide a means of poverty relief for the families that depend on them. The problem has been the lack of clear regulation to all the alluvial diamond mines, which has allowed inhumane treatment to continue.
In an effort to improve the lives of alluvial miners, several non-profits have been established. The Diamond Development Initiative, Peace Diamond Alliance and the Mwadui Community Diamond Partnership have all partnered with local governments to offer aid and improvement to the lives of miners and their families through their respective programs. These programs seek to improve education, working and living conditions, protect human rights, provide healthcare, form cooperatives and redirect a portion of the diamond mine profit to improvements within the local community.
The Kimberley Certification Process is another resource that has been established to aid the consumer in ensuring that the diamonds they purchase are conflict-free. Adopted by over 81 countries worldwide, the KCP seeks to unite government, civil rights unions, and diamond miners in an effort to prevent the trade of conflict diamonds. The Kimberley Process is a binding agreement that imposes diamond trade regulations along every step of the process, from the mine to the sale of rough diamonds to diamond buyers.
The agreements seek to impose minimum requirements for safety, prices, wages and quality of life for the diamond miners. Those that agree to the Kimberley Process agree to provide transparent record keeping and data regarding the operations of their mines. Lastly, mines who partner with the Kimberley process restrict their trades only to other members of the pact, limiting both sales and purchasing power of those who may be engaged in unethical diamond mining.
The Kimberley Process seeks to establish oversight to the diamond industry through the conducting of monthly video conference meetings and bi-annual in-person review meetings. Participants in the process are subject to regular review meetings and open data exchange on the operation of their mines.
The U.S Trade Department adopted several laws in 2003 with the goal of stemming the conflict diamond trade in the country. The Clean Diamond Trade Act, along with several rough diamond control regulations and sanctions announcement spells penalties of up to $50,000 and 10 years in prison for the importation of rough diamonds not certified through the KCP.
Geography matters when you are searching for an ethically mined diamond. A diamond mined in Canada will not come with the same potentially negative connotations as the trade in Canada is heavily regulated by the government. Namibia and Botswana have also adopted strict labor and environmental laws for the operations of a diamond mines with a goal of ending unethical treatment of diamond mine workers. While the diamond deposits are not as large, some diamonds are mined in Russia and Australia, who also abide by regulation in both treatment of workers and environmental damage repair.
We are pleased to report that changes in the diamond industry have made it easier for consumers to source a diamond from a mine that adheres to strict ethics standards in operation. Consumers can continue to purchase and invest in diamonds without inadvertently supporting unethical diamond mining practices. As a consumer, you can choose to only purchase your diamonds from jewelers who show a commitment to providing conflict-free diamonds. A trustworthy jeweler will be able to tell you where your diamonds were mined and if the source follows ethical practices.
In fact, the GIA estimates that 99 percent of diamonds on the market today are ethically sourced. Where consumers once felt that the only way to purchase a conflict-free diamond was to opt for synthetics or an alternative stone, natural diamonds are finding their way back onto the market and with less negative associations.
Now you can feel more confident when shopping for diamonds having some knowledge under your belt about the history of diamond mining and the practices that have been implemented to regulate it’s production. You can also rest assured while shopping at Mark’s Diamonds as we follow the Kimberley Certification Process very strictly and guarantee that all our diamonds are ethically sourced and conflict free.
@MarksDiamonds 3033 E 1st Ave Ste 503, Denver, CO 80206 877.766.2757