Diamonds are viewed and cherished as a symbol of commitment and love. However, most people are unaware of the positive impact they have on various communities. In remote locations where diamonds are mined, their sales have helped turn around the lives of local communities that either developed because of the mining process, or pre-existed. Lifting them up from depths of poverty, hunger, and destitution, the sales of these precious rocks have helped generate employment, education, and health facilities.
The establishment of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2003 (that prevents ‘blood diamonds’ from entering the mainstream rough diamond market) had contributed immensely in spearheading a new wave of guilt-free diamond buying to ensure the stones don’t fall in the wrong hands. With increasing awareness, most jewellery houses and diamond miners in the developed nations are now increasingly insistent on sourcing conflict-free diamonds. For instance, all the diamond mines operated by members of the Diamond Producers Association – including those in Southern Africa, Russia, Australia and Canada – work in partnership with the local communities to help generate employment, training, and development.
Recently, the government of Sierra Leone announced its decision to auction the 709-carat ‘Peace Diamond’ that was discovered in the village of Koryardu. The ‘Peace Diamond’, which is the 14th largest rough diamond to be found, is a development diamond. This means that over 50 per cent of its sales value will directly benefit the community where the diamond was discovered, and the people of Sierra Leone. Pastor Emmanuel Momoh, the owner of the diamond, says: “The ‘Peace Diamond’ will greatly improve the lives of our people as it will bring clean water, electricity, schools, medical facilities, bridges, and roads to our villages and the Kono district. This diamond represents our hope for a better future as the resources of Sierra Leone fund growth, development, and jobs.”
Hailing the initiative, Tobias Kormind, co-founder of 77 Diamonds, hopes the auction inspires others to follow suit. “With the Peace Diamond, Sierra Leone is following Botswana’s example, using its precious natural resources for the good of its people. Botswana was once one of Africa’s poorest nations, but today, thanks to its diamonds, Botswana has a literacy rate of over 80% and child mortality rates have plummeted by more than 70% since the 1960s when diamonds were first discovered there. The sale of the Peace Diamond, a partnership between the Sierra Leone government and the Rapaport Group, is a business model with integrity and vision. I hope we see much more of this,” he says.
Some of the changes brought by the sales of diamonds in socially and economically regressive communities have been tremendous. In Australia, the landmark Argyle Participation Agreement signed in 2004 between Rio Tinto and the traditional owners of the Argyle mine – the Gija and Mirriuwung people – empowered the local natives with training, employment, and business development opportunities, apart from lending the aboriginals a voice in mining decisions affecting their interests.
Education is another area that was bolstered by the diamond industry, with schools founded and funded in scores of countries where diamond mining companies are nestled. In fact, income from diamonds has helped make it possible for every child in Botswana to receive free schooling up to the age of 13. Since 2007, the Diamond Empowerment Fund (D.E.F.), founded by Russell Simmons and other diamond and jewellery industry leaders, has been providing promising youth with access to higher education.
Diamonds are finite resources whose worth intensifies manifold when they help populations to sustain, and these stones will continue to change lives for generations to come.