The Truth Underlying the Myths about Diamonds earth mining
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Is the natural diamonds mining a "take and give nothing back"?
Are we at risk of buying un ethically mined diamond?
Do they risk or harm the local communities?
Are these companies a monopoly?
The diamond industry of today is a colossal one ballooning at a rapid rate, unifying continental markets and generating massive returns. But its flourishing status has been both a boon and bane to the industry as a whole. The fame and fortune of the global diamond industry have attracted to it a lot of public attention and scrutiny. To make matters worse, a swirling vortex of myths originating from sheer ignorance and misinformation is stymieing the progress of the industry as a whole. So, before one other person falls victim to conjectures and fictional tales, let’s take a crack at busting the misinformation that prevails at large so that readers can navigate through the maelstrom of nonsense and see the truth for themselves. So, let the unveiling begin.
Conflict Diamonds and the Myths Surrounding It:
The risks of ending up buying a blood diamond is a gray area that is correlative of so many factors. Although a topic at hand and an important one at that, conflict diamond is a subject that is rife with myths and scarce on facts, at least to the common buyers. It is about time someone came along and busted the most pervasive theory of all about diamonds- the risk of a buyer unwittingly purchasing blood diamonds. Conflict diamonds are a reality yes, but an average buyer is at no alarming risk of buying them, should they be armed with necessary information.
Don Palmieri of Gem Certification & Assurance Lab says, “Our industry has made great strides since the widespread awareness that came to light during the brutal civil wars in Sierra Leone and Angola in the 1990s.” To cite figures from the books, about 1.5 to 15% of the global net diamond trade income collectively goes into facilitating or directly funding conflicts. Ambitious projects are underway to bring this percentage down to a minimum. Kimberley Process is one of the schemes that have been put in place to identify and certify conflict-free diamonds. Fashioned by the World Diamond Council, the process has the ability to filter out conflict diamonds from the ethical ones. According to reports, over 99.8% of the globally produced diamonds are conflict-free.
For those who are wary about purchasing diamonds from a certified seller in fear of paying for unethical diamonds, the industry is a highly self-regulated one. Countries around the world are committed to the cause of producing conflict-free diamonds, and to achieve that, they add some extra layers of regulation. An example of that is the UK government’s Diamond Office working on close collaboration with the European Commission, HM Revenue and Customs and some civil groups in an attempt to overthrow the problem of blood diamonds.
To keep the diamond pipeline clean, what works best is self-regulatory systems. The Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association of America’s President, Ronnie VanderLinden praises the Diamond Source Warranty Protocol that is enforced and abided by leading US companies to keep conflict diamonds out of the market. He also assured saying, “We have systems in place to ensure those doing business have the confidence to know that their source of supply is conflict-free. There are also those that subscribe to the Responsible Jewellery Council, De Beers’ Best Practice Principles, and the Signet Responsible Sourcing Protocol.”
The World Diamond Industry Is Unmistakably a Monopoly
Turns out that blood diamond is not the only issue at hand that needed some clarification. Another mistaken perception that exists among the body of buyers about the diamond industry is that De Beers still holds the monopoly on the markets. Adonis Pouroulis, the chairperson for Petra Diamonds affirms the prevalence of this perception in his comment, “The perception exists that De Beers still controls the market and controls prices, when this hasn’t been the case for decades. In fact, Petra still gets asked if we sell our diamonds to De Beers.” The commoners are however not to be blamed for this. This myth have existed and been passed around since the 1980s when De Beers did rule the diamond market controlling 90% of the share in supply chain. Another myth that is braided closely with the company’s legendary ad slogan “A Diamond Is Forever” is that De Beers invented diamond engagement rings as we know it. Well, to bust that little bubble of fiction, De Beers was not the one to “invent” diamond engagement rings per se, although they do deserve the due credit for reimagining them in the light of the modern contexts. The first recorded engagement ring that had a diamond on it was in 1477, so way before its time.
De Beer’s near-monopoly over the market existed only till 1990.
The decade saw the rise of new mining companies that claimed a share of the market thus dividing the territories deeply. Along with De Beers, another company that held a strong reign over the global market at the time was Alrosa. However, they both has to sidestep making rooms for newer companies to come in and operate in the same grounds. While Alrosa took care of the 30% of the world’s supply, other companies that rose to stand neck to neck with its likes are Dominion Diamonds, Sodiam, Petra Diamonds and Rio Tinto. Each held and to this day holds a sizeable share of the global supply of diamonds. So, monopoly, post-1990s is not a reality for the diamond industry in the US or elsewhere. As of today, it is catered by a bunch of competing suppliers who make major contributions to the yearly supply.
Diamond Mining Is Destroying the Environment
That is more in the manner of a pet peeve of environmentalists than a myth. While it would be wrong to flatly decline that diamond mining takes nothing from the environment, it would be a disservice to not point out what mining gives back to nature. Tobias Kormind, the managing director of 77Diamonds.com went on record saying, “Diamond mining is generally less harmful to the environment than other types of mining, because less or no chemicals are used, which can otherwise be harmful to the staff’s health,” in defense of this. Pouroulis weighed in by saying, “diamond mining tends to have a much smaller footprint, as our orebodies are vertical, not horizontal. In Petra’s case, we have established protected habitats adjacent to our operations, totaling 10,255 hectares, to ensure preservation of fauna and flora.”
The land areas for many companies out-measure that of the mining operations. 164,000 hectares are conserved by the De Beers Group alone. That is five times the land area doled out by the mining activities. In addition to conserving lands, De Beers is also committed to research projects. A spokesperson for the company says that the company is “also leading a ground-breaking research project that aims to deliver carbon-neutral mining at some of our operations in as few as five years. Scientists estimate that the carbon storage potential of kimberlite tailings produced by a diamond mine every year could offset up to 10 times the emissions of a typical mine.”
As for the power these mining sites run by, most big mining companies derive most of the power from alternate sources. For instance, for its Argyle mine in Australia, Rio Tinto draws 92% of the energy from hydroelectricity power station. In fact, Rio Tinto has also cut down 21% of its diesel consumption. The diamond industry as a whole has made huge strides towards waste reduction and water recycling. Programs such as extensive tree planting and mine closing are underfoot.
Miners Are at Risk
Much of the works performed by the mining community may not be easy, but that is from the thick cloud of myth that circulates misleading information like that they are great risk and are often mistreated. With ethical mining, this is about as far from the truth as two people can get while being on the same planet. Fair Trade Gems comments on this saying, “Unlike almost any other industry, mining builds communities and a sense of belonging, none more so than in diamonds”. Because diamond mines are so far out in the peripheral parts of states, miners love close to one another, which develops a strong community spirit uncommon with most work groups. To support the close and shared living of the community, the industry leaders offer hospital care, education, training and more. The industry is heavily invested in hospitals, education institutes, bursary programs and such.
The myth however in this case stems from some misunderstandings that have led people to conclude that the miners’ job include extracting diamonds and other gems by hand. Instead, mining is not how its commonly perceived. It’s an entirely automated process, and none of the rock removing and diamond extraction requires doing it with hands. In fact, the minerals are so deeply embedded in the rocks that miners in large quarries working with earth loaders “never even see a diamond” in their mining career.
The diamond mining industry employs large numbers of people in different mining locations. The GDP of Botswana is 33% supported by diamond mining.