Rapaport Magazine
Sierra Leone

Diamond Development Initiative

By Rapaport
RAPAPORT... The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) began to take shape in 2005 in recognition of the fact that the African wars, fueled by diamonds, all had roots in the alluvial diamond fields of Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Alluvial diamonds, washed away from the tops of kimberlite pipes over 50 million years, have been scattered down rivers and across large areas of terrain. Often, they are only inches from the surface, lending themselves to digging by artisans, hence the term “artisanal alluvial diamond digging.”

Historically, this kind of diamond mining, widespread in these three countries and many more, has been impossible to regulate effectively. Artisanal miners have almost always been seen — and treated — as a problem, rather than as a potentially important part of a country’s workforce.

The DDI sees things differently. There are more than a million artisanal diamond diggers in Africa, and they earn, on average, less than a dollar a day. Many enter the business in hopes of getting rich quick. Almost none do, and those who remain, stay because they are poor and because their next, best alternative is worse. Labor, health and safety conditions for artisanal workers are terrible, and they are exploited by economic predators just as they were exploited by military predators during the 1990s. Until this problem is fixed, the potential for conflict around diamonds remains.

The DDI aims to build on the idea of the Kimberley Process (KP), bringing governments, industry and development agencies together to tackle this problem in a concerted way. The ultimate aim is better lives for diggers, their families and their communities. The DDI is partly about advocacy: drawing a cross section of development organizations into the challenge. It is about education on this issue: for the diamond industry, for governments, for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). It is about education for diggers: on fair prices, on labor standards, on organization and on work methods. It is about lessons: the DDI has already carried out one research project in Sierra Leone and there will be others. Its website will house a virtual library on all aspects of artisanal mining, laws and experimental development projects.

DDI International, a registered nonprofit organization, is an undertaking initiated by a small group of NGOs and diamond companies, supported by governments. It hopes to expand its membership and its activities significantly during 2007 and the years beyond.

Members of the DDI include Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), World Bank (CASM), The Foundation for Environmental Security & Sustainability (FESS), De Beers, the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), and the Rapaport Group.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2007. To subscribe click here.

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