The social, economical, and environmental impacts of diamond mining in Africa For many people over generations the diamond has been a symbol of power, beauty, luxury, uniqueness, and everlasting pure love. For others the diamond has been a symbol of conflict, death, exploitation, misery, and blood shade. All the glamour and beauty attributed to diamonds might be blinding us to the impacts of its operations in Africa. In this paper we will go through a research journey to find out more about the positive and negative impacts of diamond mining in Africa and the diamond industry.
Also, this research paper will highlight the impacts of the diamond business operations socially, environmentally and economically in the diverse African continent. There are different types of diamond mining operations according to location and company strategies. Examples of diamond mining are the open pit mining (excavation to reach diamonds on the surface of the ground), underground mining (excavation up 1 mile underground), coastal mining (removal of sand and soil to find diamonds), marine mining (excavation of diamonds in the seabed).
Estimates claim that 60% of all the diamond deposits in the world are in the African continent. However it is important to note that not all countries in Africa have diamond reserve mines. In the present day the countries with diamond mining operations are: South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Central African Republic, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania. Out of all these African countries the main diamond mining producers are South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Namibia.
Each of these countries has their own particular laws, culture, language, and public policies, but all of them having in common the diamond mining activities. This complex industry employs thousands of people and generates profits around 8. 5 billions of dollars each year just from the rough diamonds. The global diamond industry is increasing and generates in jewelry sales $72 billions of dollars each year. Who are the stake holders in the diamond mining industry in Africa and who benefits the most? Today DeBeers is considered a major role player in the diamond industry.
This South African based corporation since 1896 has several operations in different African countries and is responsible for 45% of the world’s diamond markets in the present day. There are other diamond corporations of significant importance in Africa such as Petra Diamonds, Trans Hex, and Diamondcorp. According to the diamond council only 30% of the diamonds mined meet the requirements for polishing, cutting, and jewelry making. The rest of the diamonds around 70% are used are used for industrial applications such as cutting, drilling, gridding, and polishing.
The mine owners, the middle men’s, and the government of many of these countries appeared to benefit the most of the diamond mining. For example, a miner in Sierra Leone can work for days sometimes a week without finding a single diamond and therefore not making any money. When the diamond is found they sell it to a middle man in their town for a fraction of its value. Many of these rough stones end it up in trading centers like in the city of Antwerp in Belgium, China, New York, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Thailand, and Johannesburg where they are polished and cut.
Then after that the diamond is sold at five times more than its original paid value to markets worldwide. When we consider these facts is evident that there is a high level of inequality in these industry and the revenues of diamond mining and sales are not shared equally among the individuals involved in this industry. Apparently the trading centers, jewelers, diamond corporations, mines, governments, and politicians benefit the most and in the last place the miners. The human nature of greed, disregard to others, and exploitation play a major role in this scenario.
The inequality in the diamond industry is evident when we compare the revenues between the diamond mining activities in Africa, $8. 5 Billions of dollars every year, and the global diamond sales that generate $72 Billion dollars just in diamond jewelry sale. There is a need of more infrastructure, direct sales, and empowerment in Africa so they can increase their share among the stakeholders in the diamond industry. What are the positive social impacts of diamond mining in Africa? In many African countries the diamond mining operations have an important role in contributing to social development.
For example, DeBeers diamond corporation and the government of Botswana are working together to improve social living standards for their population. In the early years right after their independence in 1966 Botswana was considered among the poorest countries in the world with a per capita income of $80. According to the World Bank, today Botswana is among the most prosperous countries in Africa, with middle class and a per capita income around $6,000 per year. The operations of DeBeers in this country account for third of its gross domestic product approximately $3. 3 billions of dollars.
The diamond mining operations in Botswana helped to build roads, hospitals, schools, rural clinics, H. I. V treatment programs, and scholarships opportunities. It is important to highlight that corporate social responsibility and less corrupt government were responsible for these positive changes in the country besides of the diamonds. Another positive aspect of diamond mining is that it can certainly increase a family’s income for those who work in the industry. For example, according to statistics 38,000 of workers are employed in diamond mining just in South Africa.
By increasing the family income, households will have more resources for feeding, educating and providing care for their families. In the example of DeBeers we can see what a socially responsible corporation and a government can do towards social improvement. It is important to emphasize that the diamond mining by itself is not sustainable. But the diamond activity geared in the right direction can help maintain sustainability. There is a need of more integrated efforts between governments and diamond mining corporations to improve the living standards of their communities.
The enlightening of corporations and governments can have a significant role play in helping to shift the social parameters of those directly and indirectly involved with the diamond mining. What are the negative social impacts of diamond mining in Africa? Illegal diamond mining still an unresolved issue in the industry and can have several negative social effects. For example, the so called blood diamonds are the source of violence, deaths, and exploitation against civilians by militias. An example of this was during the Sierra Leone civil war that lasted 11 years, rebels forced civilians to mine diamonds at a gun point to finance the war against the government.
More, during these illegal diamond activity entire families were forced to dig in their own houses in search for diamonds. The victims didn’t have any financial incentive to work; instead they were constantly threatened and feared for their lives. Another negative example is that diamond mining could increase inequality within the community between those who benefit directly of the mine and those who don’t benefit from it. The increase of inequality could increase social unrest and increase in criminality rate levels.
Another negative impact could be the displacement of entire communities and interruption of livelihood can happen because of diamond mining. For example, relocation of communities to make way for mining operations is common. This can easily lead to tension between the mine, farmers and local communities. Unmet expectations for compensation for disruption and resettlement can be a permanent source of tension between communities and project developers. Diamond mining could also cause the increase of migration, immigration, population, and diseases.
This matter could be catastrophic if a community does not have the necessary infrastructure to support these changes following an installment of a diamond mining activity. For example, large arrivals of outsiders or immigrant miners not integrated into the local community or subject to its social norms can destabilize internal community power relations and this can exacerbate social tensions. In many communities the changes could have a negative impact on the youth such as to have a sense of loss that could influence them to joined militias or gangs.
Another important negative impact could the increase in poverty levels through damage in subsistence agriculture activity. For example, the family who had agriculture as a form of living now with the land displacement has to look for another activity to survive. Last, there are some diamond mining activities that are considered the most dangerous jobs because of many deaths of workers related to it. An example of this is the diving activity to recover diamonds from the river beds.
Most of the workers don’t have adequate equipment and risk their lives every day in long labor journeys of diving in murky river waters to extract soil and pebbles by hand. There are many cases of diving workers who died because of getting tangled up with the air supply precarious hoses. The diamond mining activities can be very costly to the community if they are not planned and considered carefully. In many cases, like a civil war, illegal diamond mining activities can destroy an entire community and exacerbate the social chaos. The protection of human life should be the most important goal before considering diamond mining.
A human life is something unique and irreplaceable and should always out weight the value of diamond pebbles. What could implement in the diamond industry in order to improve social development? A great problem for the governments in the African continent is the illegal activity of diamond mining and tax evasion. The diamond industry believes that 90% of their diamonds are legit and 10% are smuggled illegally from these countries. Other diamond organizations believe that this percentage could be even higher and around 20% to 40% of smuggled illegal diamonds.
The problem arises in the dilemma of who is responsible for this problem, and who should fix it. The answer is clear that both parties in specific the trading centers, buyers, and the governments of the diamond mining countries are responsible for this matter. More, they should drop their attitudes, disregard, and corruption and work closely together to solve this problem. The basic conflict of interests is that the buyers think that they are not responsible for this problem because they are paying for the diamonds. In the other hand corrupted government officials are bribed to let smugglers leave their countries with diamonds.
The trading centers say that it is hard to differentiate between a smuggled diamonds from legit diamonds. In fact, diamonds are very much easier to smuggle than drugs, because they are easy to hide and they don’t leave any smell. An average person could be carrying millions of dollars worth in diamonds in the pocket and walk around unnoticed. Trading centers, buyers, governments, should adopt more rigid policies against illegal diamond mining and smuggling. Despite of the recent improvements and certifications required illegal diamond mining and smuggling still at high.
Unfortunately the citizens of these diamond mining countries are in fact quietly suffering and paying the higher price for their government corruption and diamond trading buying centers disregard. It is time for an awakening of moral, social, economical, and environmental conscience in the world. It is time for us to understand that we are responsible for the problems we have and that we are the answer to solve them. We need true love to live by acceptable means and learn how to share. What policies have been adopted to prevent diamond smuggling?
Today the problem of blood diamonds and illegal smuggled diamonds made the governments and the diamond industry to adopt systems to prevent this illicit activity. To promote the trading of diamonds from legitimate sources and to ensure that consumers can be confident in their diamond jewelry purchases, governments, NGOs and the international diamond industry have worked together to implement a certificate of origin system, known as the Kimberley Process. The Kimberly process is a certification system that prevents diamonds from an area of conflict entering the legitimate diamond supply chain.
The Kimberley Process ensures that only rough diamonds accompanied by a government issued certificate can be imported and exported. These measurements can help to provide an assurance that the diamonds are from conflict free sources. Under this United Nations mandated system, only countries that are part of the Kimberley process can import or export rough diamonds. Today, 74 countries are members of the Kimberley Process, ensuring that more than 90% of diamonds are from conflict free sources. Anyone who imports or exports rough diamonds between these countries without a Kimberley Process certificate is breaking the law.
In addition to the Kimberley Process, the System of Warranties was developed by the World Diamond Council (WDC) to extend the Kimberley Process conflict free assurance to polished diamonds and provide a means by which consumers can be assured their diamonds are from conflict free sources. Its principal element is a declaration on the invoice accompanying every transaction (apart from the transaction directly to the consumer) of polished diamonds that declares the diamonds are not involved in funding conflict and are in compliance with United Nations resolutions.
The System of Warranties provides assurance that diamonds are from conflict free sources all the way to the diamond jewelry retailer. Another example of efforts against the illegal diamond mining activity is the World Jewelry Confederation (CIBJO); this is an international confederation of national jewelry trade organizations of more than 40 countries. In addition to their 40 countries there are 33 associate members from commercial organizations. The purpose of CIBJO is to promote transparency, standards and international cooperation in the diamond-jewelry industry, and to consider issues involving the trade worldwide.
What are the environmental impacts related to the diamond mining? The diamond mining can add a heavy burden to the environment and certainly become unsustainable. The question that arises is that are the positive aspects of diamond mining a gain for the society or does it cancel out with the losses to the environment? The diamond mining can negatively affect an environment in different ways. Mining can drastically alter the environment by removing millions of pounds of ground soil, and by adding chemical substances and toxic emissions to the air.
For example, changes in the water quality, destruction of watercourses, and potentially loss of fish through draining of rivers and lakes. Open cast mining is particularly associated with deforestation, soil erosion, land degradation, air pollution and disruption of the wild life. An example of these is the pollution through an increase of the production and emission of green house gases, since most of the mines have machinery that operates with diesel fuel. In sum, the diamond mining activities are a very complex industry that can involve many corporations, governments, workers, traders, and business men.
The diamond mining by itself is not a sustainable activity but if geared in the right way can help the sustainability of developed and underdeveloped societies. In many instances this activity can be used to improve the social standards of living throughout a close partnership of socially responsible corporations and less corrupted governments. An example of a success story is DeBeers and the government of Botswana partnership by building roads, schools, hospitals, clinics, and improving the levels of income in the country.
Despite of several efforts to make the diamond trade licit and beneficial for the society there are still issues to be considered. For example, illegal smuggling, blood diamonds, negative impacts in the social, economical, and environmental theme. The diamond mining sustainability and the environmental destruction as a legacy for future generation can raise doubts about the business. Regardless of the issues presented the diamond business was and still is a very promissory industry, and if conducted accordingly will benefit the upward social development of many communities around the world.