National Jeweler Network

Social Issues

DDI: The time is now to help artisanal miners

By Michelle Graff

June 19, 2014

Antwerp--Artisanal miners dig up an estimated 16 percent of the world’s rough diamonds and 12 percent of its gold and are just as much a part of the jewelry industry as anyone else. Yet they suffer human rights violations and deal with poor working conditions and low pay on a daily basis. 

It is time the industry did more to help. This is the message Diamond Development Initiative Honorary Vice Chairman Rory More O’Ferrall delivered to diamond industry leaders gathered in Antwerp for the World Diamond Congress. 

Artisanal miners “are just as much members of this industry as are your employees and colleagues in your factory, your office, your workshop or your retail store,” he said. “They are just as much members of the industry as we are--you and me. They are our people. But for them nothing much has changed and they don’t have a choice.” 

He told the room of industry leaders that issues of human rights abuses and social degradation are “all too clearly present” in the digging fields of Africa. And they don’t go unnoticed, as their plight attracts media and public attention, harming the industry’s reputation. 

The violence surrounding the artisanal gold mining operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, prompted the addition of a “conflict” minerals provision to the otherwise-unrelated Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. 

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June 2 was the deadline for companies covered by the provision to file the first round of forms and reports required by the legislation.  

In the Central African Republic, a Kimberley Process ban remains in place on rough diamond exports, following the March 2013 overthrow of President François Bozizé by rebel groups reportedly funded by revenues from the country’s alluvial diamond mines.

RELATED CONTENT: Banned CAR diamonds intercepted in Antwerp

“This is not just an issue of morality--doing the right thing–it is actually a business-driven imperative, something that needs to be done and done now, to protect the margins, differentiate the product and continue to create value in all the businesses represented here today, large or small,” O’Ferrall said in his speech in Antwerp.

He implored those present to make a donation to the DDI, a nonprofit that works to create sustainable development for the diamond diggers, their communities and their families. The DDI has projects in place in Sierra Leone and the Congo that demonstrate that artisanal mining can be safe, support national economies and human rights, and provide a livelihood for people living in poverty.  

A full copy of O’Ferrall’s speech in PDF form is available here and more information about DDI can be found at DDIGlobal.org

The 36th World Diamond Congress concluded Wednesday in Antwerp. The congress takes place every two years in a different city, serving as a forum for the general assembly of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association.