The issues surrounding artisanal diamond miners present a threat to the industry’s image, Rory More O’Ferrall told the World Diamond Congress in Antwerp, Belgium.
O’Ferrall, a De Beers veteran and honorary vice chair of the Diamond Development Initiative, the joint industry–NGO group that looks into the issues, estimated there are 1.5 million diggers in Africa and South Africa working in arduous and highly dangerous conditions, often surviving on less than two dollars a day. About 16 percent of the world’s rough diamonds come from this informal sector of mining, as does 12 percent of gold, he said.
“This is not just an issue of morality—doing the right thing—it is actually a business-driven imperative, something that needs to be done—and done now,” he said. “Issues of human rights and social degradation are all too clearly present in the digging fields of Africa. They increasingly attract media and public attention and pose a real threat to the reputation of the industry and the integrity of our product.”
These miners “are just as much members of this industry as are your employees and colleagues in your factory, your office, your workshop, or your retail store,” O’Ferrall continued. “They are just as much members of the industry as we are—you and me—they are our people. But for them nothing much has changed, and they don’t have a choice.”