Blood Diamonds Still a Reality Today
A dog is a man’s best friend and a diamond is a girl’s best friend. If you are an environmentalist, you may have to think twice about the latter. Diamonds have long been revered as a symbolic gemstone of love, marriage, and longevity. They are traditional engagement ring stones and tokens of commitment. However, the diamonds that people love all around the world often have some ecological and social controversy tied to them.
Just like with any mining process digging up land, waste disposal, and water resources are involved. The impacts to the local environment and its aboriginal people can be catastrophic and are frequently down played by the industry for fear that diamonds will become the next “fur” which could damage their profits.
Regardless, the human conflict and suffering will haunt the image of these beautiful stones forever. In the 1990’s rebels in Africa have used diamonds to fund their callous motives while forcing innocent civilians, including children, to work for them as slaves and prisoners. Thousands of children were taken from their families, forced to dig in alluvial pits in search of the diamonds. Millions of people were displaced as refugees and thousands were raped during the peak conflict in Africa. Profits from the illegal trade of diamonds funded billions of dollars in guns and ammunition for warlords and rebel armies resulting in an estimated 3.7 million diamond fueled deaths in Africa.
Perhaps the diamond trade in Sierra Leon was the most effected since it lead the country to a sacrificial civil war. A conservative estimate of Sierra Leone’s diamond exports should have been near $70 million in 1999 but their exports accounted for a mere $1.2 million with the other $68.8 million of estimated value lost to illicit criminal activity.
The term “blood diamonds” emerged after the story went global and gained national attention in the 90’s. In addition, a famous movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio fittingly titled “Blood Diamonds” helped bring to light the social conflict behind the glittering rocks of crystallized carbon.
The armed rebels in Sierra Leone were fully investigated and exposed by humanitarians, journalists, politicians, and diamond industry leaders. Soon after in 2003, the United Nations along with most countries adopted The Kimberley Process Certification System to ensure that each diamond exported was conflict-free. Ever since the new code of goodwill was implemented there have been significant improvements in conflict-free diamonds entering the international diamond market. However, this process has some major flaws and weaknesses in the system because governmental controls are not effectively enforced thus allowing blood diamonds to trickle into the market unscathed.
Smuggled diamonds are a problem and manage to enter the certification centers and sneak into the global market as “certified”. Claims have been made more specifically by Eli Izacoff, chairman of the World Diamonds Counsel, stating that 99.8% of rough uncut diamonds are conflict-free. Others believe that to be a highly over exaggerated estimate especially since they launched a multi-million dollar PR campaign to convince people that the conflict diamond problem is long over.
The Kimberley Certification process doesn’t have any national laws to adhere to, which allows some members of the diamond industry to continue to trade blood diamonds while the rest just turn a blind-eye to the issue. Vague claims by retailers backed by the Kimberly Process only certifies diamonds are not used in rebel wars or terrorism but ignore other important issues like child labor, torture, rape, extremem poverty, environmental harm, and violence led from governments. A credible conflict free diamond jeweler should be able to track and prove that the above issues were not affiliated with their diamonds. For a complete guide on ethical diamond buying guide click here.
The wars in Angola and Sierra Leone are long over but conflict-diamonds are still a reality to this day. Africans still slave for pennies a day on their homeland and receive no benefits or profits from the high sticker price sold in western civilizations. Armed wars and human rights abuse continue in the Eastern Congo over the rights to diamond mines. Diamond companies and traders have been said to exploit weak government controls with poor enforcement through the diamond supply industry, which results in the continuance of blood diamonds to be traded today.
Along with the saddening human crimes and years of stolen lives and labor is the ecological impact in climate sensitive regions like Africa. Diamond mining takes a lot of water and land reclamation of some kind. Preservation of top soil and water management is generally not regulated in these types of operations. Open pit mining is the most common and productive way to extract diamonds and involves many of the similar earth stresses that other types of open pit mining impose. Large amounts of rock and materials are removed and causes disturbances to eco systems and can sometimes result in acid mine drainage. In a country that already suffers from a water scarcity crisis, pits and loose fill are left unmanaged and open causing toxic runoff to enter pristine waterways and local streams. This can cause catastrophic effects on the extremely sensitive nature of regions in Africa.
Africa has been the main highlight of this post although similar practices and plunder exist in other countries as well such as Botswana, India, and Australia. People that slave for next to nothing for industries to make billions in profit with little to no attention to the environment are the reason for the emergence of lab grown man-made diamonds. To the naked eye, these diamonds show no differences when next to a natural diamond. They are grown in highly controlled laboratories with the most advanced technology and are completely free of conflict both human and environmental. They are frequently a fraction of the cost of a natural diamond and are a completely guilt free symbol of TRUE conflict-free love.
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