This is really an excellent post at Solitare about South Africa’s mine sector, its dismal safety record, and the risk of a consumer backlash.
Diamond mining does not have a bad reputation safety-wise, but, as you can see in the chart printed on the Solitare post, the record of gold and platinum mines is atrocious. As the post notes, things have gotten so bad, the union in South Africa has called a one-day strike because so many miners are dying.
This risk of a backlash is very real. I recently got this email from a friend who didn’t want to buy a diamond after watching — believe it or not — Ice Road Truckers:
I was watching a fascinating show on History Channel about what goes into transporting equipment to the diamond minds in the Arctic…people risking their lives for a stupid diamond…makes me want to give back my wedding rings. I’ll definitely consider buying jewelry without precious stones, as it seems a lot of people suffer for it.
Because of Blood Diamond and all the rest, many consumers now think of diamond mining as inherently sleazy. I can’t tell you how many times, when I tell people what I do, I am asked about how horrible things are in the diamond mines. When the story about the trapped South African gold miners was all over the news, I recall thinking, if that was a diamond mine, we’d be in a lot of trouble. Truly, this industry doesn’t have room for error anymore.
Anyway, on the subject of social issues, Chaim also has a great column this week about the challenge of reforming the Sierra Leone diamond sector.