By Michelle Graff
Freetown, Sierra Leone—GemFair, De Beers Group’s Sierra Leone-based program designed to support artisanal and small-scale miners, has inked a partnership to accelerate its activities in West Africa.

Earlier this month, De Beers announced GemFair has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, or GIZ, and the Mano River Union to jointly deliver a regional training program.

The program would aim to: enhance mining capacity, promote knowledge sharing, and build a comprehensive understanding of mine site health and safety, diamond valuation, ethical sourcing standards and environmental management.

Miners, government officials and civil society activists will take the training, which is slated to happen in four countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast.

De Beers said the training is designed to support implementation of the Kimberley Process’ regional approach and enhance knowledge of the requirements of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) while introducing safer and more environmentally friendly mining techniques for artisanal miners in the Mano River Union area.

Based in Bonn, Germany, GIZ is a development agency that focuses on international development cooperation.

The initiative with GemFair and Mano River Union is part of GIZ’s Regional Resource Governance Program, which it implements on behalf of the German Development Corporation and the European Union.

The Mano River Union, or MRU, is an intergovernmental organization formed in 1973 to promote development and maintain peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast. It is headquartered in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

For the program, MRU will be the main partner overseeing artisanal and small-scale mining as well as the trade of diamonds in the region, while GemFair will design the curricula for the program and provide the staff and expertise to deliver the training.

“The regional approach to the Kimberley Process, artisanal and small-scale mining and the fight against precious mineral smuggling in the Mano River Union sub-region is producing important positive results on the management of the artisanal mining sector, for the benefit of the four MRU member states,” MRU Secretary General Medina Wesseh said in a news release.

She called signing the memorandum of understanding a “high point” for the artisanal mining sector, noting, “The sub-region’s artisanal mining sector, if effectively managed, can be a growth engine as it is an important niche to improve state revenues, enhance development of communities, and therefore reduce poverty at the grassroots level.”

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