60 Minutes Revisits Conflict Diamonds

The CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes II recently aired another story on conflict diamonds and again suggested that consumers who buy diamonds are unwittingly financing brutal wars in Africa.

The bulk of the story focused on new mines in Canada and included interviews with prospectors and shots of Ekati, the first mine in the Northwest Territories.

But some in the industry were upset at comments regarding conflict diamonds. The show said Canadian diamonds “are being hailed as the Boy Scouts of diamonds: they’re politically correct, and they’re plentiful.” But it also noted: “Though a tiny percentage of Canadian diamonds are now being microscopically branded to show where they were mined, virtually all of the world’s diamonds are sold with nothing that identifies [the] country of origin. So if you wanted to buy a nonconflict Canadian diamond, say, in New York’s diamond district on 47th Street, it would be just about impossible.”

Following this, Matthew Hart, author of the book Diamond and a former correspondent for the Rapaport Diamond Report, urged consumers to ask where their diamonds come from. “We know that so far the stories about blood diamonds and diamond wars in Africa haven’t affected diamond sales in the slightest,” he said. “Until the consumers, for some reason or other, rise up and say, ‘You know what? I don’t need a diamond that badly. Until you can prove to me where the diamonds come from, I’m not gonna buy them.’ If that happened, you bet there would be a clean diamond stream in no time at all. But it hasn’t happened yet.”

Hart also contradicted prospector Eira Thomas when she pegged the number of conflict diamonds at 4%. “That is complete baloney,” he said. “Do they produce auditable returns?”

He concluded that the diamond industry is “a fantastic business. They basically have convinced people to buy a product worth nothing. You can’t drive it. You can’t make it into clothes. You can’t roof your house with it. It’s just a fantastically wonderful, glorious blaze of something that has no value whatever, except that it really looks great.”

In February 2001, the Sunday edition of 60 Minutes aired a story on conflict diamonds that also contained strong criticism of the industry.