The Diamond Development Initiative Launches Certification for Artisanal Sector

May 3, 2019

The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) has unveiled the Maendeleo Diamond Standards (MDS), a program that helps artisanal miners receive certification showing their diamonds are conflict-free. It should be noted that the majority of diamonds mined and sold today are conflict free. Unfortunately this wasn’t true about diamonds a few decades ago. Reports estimated that as much as 21% of total diamond production in the 1980s was being sold for illegal and unethical purposes and 19% was specifically conflict in nature. By 1999, the illegal diamond trade was estimated by the World Diamond Council (WDC) to have been reduced to 4% of the world's diamond production. The WDC reported that by 2004 this percentage had fallen to approximately 1% and up to today the World Diamond Council refers to this illegal trade to be virtually eliminated, meaning that more than 99% of diamonds being sold have a legal background.  The world diamond industry might have had their heads in the sand in the 1980s but they have done an excellent job since then in eliminating blood diamonds from the marketplace.

Blood diamonds (also called conflict diamonds, war diamonds, hot diamonds, or red diamonds) is a term used for any diamond that was mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, an invading army's war efforts, or a warlord’s activity. The term is used to highlight the negative consequences of the diamond trade in certain areas, or to label an individual diamond as having come from such an area. Diamonds that were mined during the recent civil wars in Angola, Sierra Leona, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau have been given the label.

The system, named after the Swahili word for development, was created together with various stakeholders. Those include government entities, local civil-society organizations, and artisanal and small-scale miners in four countries in Africa and South America, DDI said last week.

MDS is based on eight principles, which cover legality, consent and community engagement, human and workers’ rights, health and safety, violence-free operations, environmental management, interactions with large-scale mining, and site closure.

“Standards provide credible assurances to consumers, and they are long overdue for the artisanal and small-scale diamond mining (ASDM) sector,” said DDI executive director Dorothee Gizenga. “MDS enables commercial entities to ethically source diamonds from artisanal and small-scale operations, while also supporting miners and their communities to ensure their inclusion in a broader system of responsible supply chains.”

The DDI conducted a pilot project for MDS in Sierra Leone in 2012 and 2013, expanding it into a full program in 2014. It is now ready to be implemented across the ASDM sector, DDI noted, explaining that diamonds mined by these operations represent nearly 20% of the global industry’s annual output by volume.

“Artisanally mined diamonds are major sources of livelihoods for more than 1.5 million miners working in 18 countries in Africa and South America, supporting as many as 10 million family members,” Gizenga added.

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