Tony Hall says ‘conflict diamonds’ proposals are in trouble

The lawmaker spearheading the fight to end the sale of “conflict diamonds” in the United States warned on Thursday a key international effort to stop the gems from fueling civil wars in several African countries was in trouble, Reuters reported.

Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio) also cautioned that his own bill to require U.S. importers to provide certification of the origin of rough or polished diamonds and some jewelry that contains diamonds might not win congressional approval this year despite having bipartisan support, Reuters reported.

Hall, speaking to the World Diamond Conference in Vancouver Thursday, said the diamond industry must do more to rally public support for the fight against the diamonds or risk a backlash in the United States-which consumes about 50% of world diamond production, Reuters reported.

“Conflict diamonds” are used to fund brutal wars in countries like Angola and Sierra Leone. It is estimated they account for about 4% of the world’s estimated $7.5 billion trade in rough stones.

The industry’s major players, such as South Africa’s De Beers have thrown their support behind the Kimberly Process, an agreement by nearly 40 diamond producing and consuming countries to control the international flow of rough stones with a certification system.

“The reason I’m here is because I believe that the Kimberly Process is in trouble, and that your industry may be the only player that can salvage its promise,” Hall told the industry representatives.

Hall noted deadlines in the pact have already been missed.

Hall said he delivered the same message in a private meeting on Thursday with representatives of De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer, who are barred from entering the United States because of long-standing anti-trust laws battle with the U.S. government.

The leader of the Kimberly Process, Abbey Chikane, the head of South Africa’s powerful Diamond Board, said told Reuters that Hall may be too pessimistic. “It may be an exaggeration to say the Kimberly Process is in trouble. I am not sure that it is in trouble,” Chikane said.

Hall said while the U.S. public was still largely ignorant about the issue, but its anger was growing. “The U.S. has an obligation to stop this carnage, because it is the right thing to do, and because, like it or not, Americans buy a lot of diamonds,” Hall said.