The hogwash of Kimberley Process, while conflict diamonds continue to enter the markets

Conflict Diamonds
[Image Courtesy: Sean Jacob, Africa is a Country]

Definition of Conflict Diamonds by Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) as “rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments” is a narrow one as it does not include other human rights violations, social and environmental abuses. This is a known fact but what continues to perplex is the way Kimberley Process is being misused to create a false impression that conflict stones have been virtually banished, clearly misguiding consumers.

In a recent industry meet, though it was agreed that KPCS needs reforms and time and again the process to redefine conflict diamonds have been tabled, but every time it has faced vehement oppositions from factions within the industry. Zimbabwe’s Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa though mentions that they “supported the concept of review”, but remains highly apprehensive and sceptical of the objectives.

Conflict Diamonds
[Image Courtesy: Ghobi S, Prezi, Kidgambit]
These were the sort of reasons why Global Witness, on whose original research and report KPCS was established, resigned as an official observer of Kimberly Process sighting the reasons that conflict diamonds continue to fund violence and atrocities. Similarly, Amnesty International in its explosive report ‘Chains of abuse’ had uncovered how blood diamonds are being proliferated across the world through countries like Central African Republic (CAR) and how some diamond trading centers including Antwerp and Dubai are part of the process.

 

In a recent investigative article, journalist Bryan Clark explores how conflict-free diamonds is a scam and is costing diamond buyers millions of dollars. He goes on to prove that even the provenance of the so-called Canadian diamonds cannot be established and claims of ‘conflict-free’ by some leading retailers is a sham.

Meanwhile, World Diamond Council (WDC) President Andrey Polyakov is claiming that diamond industry is close to tracking ‘fingerprint for stones’. “What I have learnt myself in talking to scientists is that we are very close to the technology which could determine where the diamonds come from… it is like the fingerprint for stones”. He adds “Based on spectroscopy if I am not mistaken, you could determine where it was mined and in which region if you had a big enough library of samples. You could guarantee the supply chain of rough diamonds based on technology not administration…”

Though it is a noble thought, but it is highly unlikely that such a technology can really be developed and then more importantly, implemented world-wide. Executive board member of Diamond Development Initiative (DDIDr. Gavin Hilson had mentioned some time back that KPCS is great on paper but relies on good governance, and many diamond-producing countries have no institutions to provide that stability. He further added that a material’s background could also be hard to identify. Stephen Morisseau of GIA echoes Gavin’s views that currently not sufficient technical and scientific methods exist to determine origin of diamonds, unlike colored gemstones like rubies and sapphires.

Conflict Diamonds
[Image Courtesy: Micheal Griffith, Ads of the World]
There was lot of noise some time back about similar claims of tracking a diamond’s origin through emerging technology like blockchain, but no progress has happened till date. Besides, systems like ‘Chain of Custody’ that was suggested long time back has been consistently ignored and opposed by the industry. In such a scenario, it then becomes excruciatingly difficult for today’s consumers to ensure what they are putting on their fingers is not a result of some horrific bloodshed or dreadful rape of a teenage girl in Africa.

 

While this scenario continues, locals continue to suffer in many forms. Belgian registered firm First Element who was contracted to clean and sort gems, allegedly picked fictitious buyers for local auctions and facilitated collusion on prices, resulting in millions of dollars of lost revenue to Zimbabwe. Israel-based Pluto Mining Company, which was appointed by the Sierra Leone government to carry out structural repairs of the Congo Bridge in Koidu, overpassing diamond deposits is accused of illegally mining the area. An ex-artisanal miner shares his story of how he had to work in inhuman conditions by digging diamonds to fund his studies. Sierra Leone was a major source of blood diamonds few years back and it seems people have forgotten the brutal killings and violence, when companies like Stellar Diamonds consolidate its mines and expand. In another news, it has been revealed that Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump and a senior White House advisor, has direct business connections and a USD 150 million ownership in assets with one of Israel’s richest family, Stienmetz. Apart from the Koidu Limited controversy leaked in the ‘Panama Papers’, Beny Stienmetz, owner of Ascot Diamonds, was earlier also accused of colluding with De Beers and stealing from South African diamond industry.

 

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