De Beers joins effort to improve the lives of unregulated workers

Jonathan Oppenheimer, director of De Beers, and Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, announced a $2 million project to help improve the lives of “informal” diamond miners in Tanzania, who work in streams and river beds where diamonds occasionally wash up, during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, held Sept. 22.

Informal mining is often unregulated, and workers are frequently exploited by middlemen and rogue traders. These conditions exist across western and central Africa and as a result, nearly 1.3 million informal miners live in total poverty, despite the value of the diamonds they mine. The goal of the De Beers project is to provide these miners with access to fair-market pricing and healthcare.

“De Beers does not have a business interest in informal mining, but we cannot sit idly by and watch millions of African miners and their families suffer,” Oppenheimer said in a statement. “While we may not have all the solutions or expertise, we hope to work in partnership with those that do to give this program the best chance of success.”

De Beers said it is joining with the government of Tanzania and several non-governmental organizations in the hope of creating a workable model that can be used to help informal miners in other diamond-producing countries like Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This commitment by De Beers reflects its participation in the multi-stakeholder Diamond Development Initiative. De Beers chose Tanzania as the location for the project because the Government asked for its help, and the company already had mining operations in the country.

“This is an example of the business-government partnerships we seek to build and sustain,” Kikwete said in the same statement. “Together, we can proclaim to Tanzanians that business is critical to the success of our development efforts.”

For decades, formal diamond mining has helped fuel economic growth in countries like South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. In Botswana alone, mining revenue accounts for 30 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Such economic growth has allowed these countries to invest heavily in education and healthcare.