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The Kimberley Process mulling over broader definition of "conflict diamonds"

17 december 2018

stephane_fischler_xxz.pngThe participants of the recent Kimberley Process Plenary Meeting hosted by the European Union in Brussels carried their work to completion on November 16, 2018 but were left with a home work on their hands to be done before the next convention under the chairmanship of India. The World Diamond Council, the voice of the diamond industry in the Kimberley Process tripartite expressed concern that more progress was not made in reforming its scope at this Plenary by expanding the definition of "conflict diamonds", which had been proposed by WDC and its fellow KP observer, the Civil Society Coalition (CSC).

Interviewed by Rough&Polished, Stephane Fischler, President of the World Diamond Council provides his opinion on the necessity for action to solve the problems of artisanal and small-scale miners particularly vulnerable from both the social and economic perspective, thus enhancing the role of the Kimberley Process in protecting their interests.

The Kimberley Process Plenary Meeting this last November did not succeed to change the definition of “conflict diamonds.” What is the major stumbling block to expand this definition?

There was no expectation for an agreement to a new definition at the November Plenary.

A formal proposal from Canada, jointly supported by the World Diamond Council (WDC) and the Civil Society Coalition (CSC) was formally registered during the plenary. It will now form the basis, unless other proposal and send in of course, for the discussions during the Indian Chairmanship.

Prior to the KP Plenary in Brussels, Joanne Lebert, Executive Director of IMPACT said that the diamond industry “continues to be tainted by association with human rights abuses like child labour and forced labour, as well as conflict, environmental damage, and corruption.” Your comments.

The CSC, now exclusively comprised of African NGO’s and supported by the Belgian based IPIS (International Peace Information Service) has made it clear during our multiple exchanges that their main area of focus are the communities active in and around the diamond mining areas.

The main concerns are, both linked to rough diamonds sourcing:

1. Grave and systematic violence and

2. Abuses by public and private security forces.

The environment is also an area of concern especially when it impacts the basic livelihoods of these communities.

These exchanges have led to our joint proposal for a new definition.

Some of the African countries were reported to be against expanding the definition of "conflict diamonds" fearing this may affect diamonds from the continent given that some governments have tainted human rights records in the mining sector. Do you think such fears are groundless?

The main argument that we have been party to, is that any expanded definition will have to contain clear assurances of impartiality. Meaning that any action undertaken by the KP as a result of a breach to the definition, will have to be done in a neutral and objective manner. A guaranteed level playing field for all. Both the WDC and the CSC have no issue with this and understand the expressed concerns. These will have to be part and parcel of the discussions leading to the new definition.

Other arguments are rightly centered on the limited capacity of the current KP secretariat not just related to enforcing a new and broadened definition but more so regarding the review and monitoring processes undertaken by the KP. This is the reason why the WDC has launched the proposal of establishing a permanent secretariat with reinforced capacity. The principles have been formally agreed in November during the Brussels Plenary.

I do not discount the possibility that new arguments will be put forward to counter the expansion of the definition. We can only hope that all the KP participants will understand that the future credibility of the KP is at stake here.

What is the focal point of reforms launched by the World Diamond Council to improve the System of Warranties? Will the promotion of human and labor rights within these reforms be expanded to embrace the industry’s diamond manufacturing and retail segments as well?

The focus is to reinforce the awareness and remind each industry participant of its responsibility to care and respect the “do no harm” principles.

Indeed, the principles mentioned in your question, have now been specifically included.

The SoW Guidelines beside underlining that industry participants must observe the implementation of the KPCS, KPCS Core Document and KP Administrative Decisions and KP Guiding Documents, they must as well understand and voluntarily implement universally accepted principles on human and labor rights, AML and anticorruption that are reflected in the following international documents: UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work; UN Convention Against Corruption; AML Guidelines as per National Laws in line with FATF 40 Recommendations on Money Laundering for Dealers in Precious Metals and Stones.

Bringing more African nations and voices into the Kimberley Process is proclaimed by the World Diamond Council to be one of the pressing needs. What has been done to achieve this and what is yet to be done?

Indeed, we believe that there is a serious of lack of diplomatic engagement, mostly, but not only, by African countries.

We have already contacted multiple regional organization to sensitize them for the need of stronger and continuous engagement. Most countries have what I would call “technical representation” and very few have diplomatic engagement. Being a UN process we believe this needs to change.

The Kimberley Process is assuming a more pro-active role in protecting the interests of artisanal and small-scale diamond miners and intends to facilitate their legitimate access to the world diamond market. In what way can it be done? Will this process engage larger diamond mining companies as well?

The Kimberley Process is indeed more focused than in the past on the artisanal sector. But here again, we need to stress that we are talking of around 18% of the yearly volume of diamonds produced. 5% in value.

Unfortunately, without a new definition it will not generate any meaningful change regarding the prevention of destabilizing violence. So, there is “goodwill”, a dedicated working group, but so far little progress.

The solution exists and can be deployed: formalize the sector and apply the Maendaleo Standards developed by the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) throughout the artisanal diamond mining sector.

In what way does the World Diamond Council intend to improve the peer-review mechanism helping the KP members to assess each other’s compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)?

It is very simple: apply the standards evenly by- and towards each-and-every participant.

Unfortunately, not the case today. That is why we are very supportive of a more precise language that would avoid any “loopholes” or possible “inaction”.

The KP Plenary adopted a decision to use unified diamond nomenclature and terminology as a best practice. Could you elaborate on this in more detail?

This document was designed and undersigned by 9 industry representative organizations including the WDC. It is evident and critical to all of us, that the language use to describe diamonds, synthetic diamonds, simulants and gemstones must be universal and clear to consumers all around the world.

Clear language is the first line of defense to neutralize consumer abuse.

Consumers must have an easy and clear understanding of the product they are interested in buying.

What is your opinion of De Beers’ move to differentiate natural from synthetic diamonds through pricing? Which side in this tug-of-war will it help in the end?

I fully understand the pricing part of the strategy but as you know, I have been on record questioning this move by De Beers. Of course, the “modus operandi” by which this strategy will be deployed over time will define its impact. There is also a very strong cultural element in play. In addition, the “made in USA” strategy will be, to my opinion, a strong differentiating factor in the biggest and to date almost only consumer market for synthetics, the US.

As I said before, I would love to be proven wrong, but I am still of the opinion that the De Beers’ strategy will seriously impact the diamond industry and more so, the lowest quality assortments.

Most probably as well, the African producers with large artisanal sectors who are challenged today as to their ethical practices.

On condition that the unique value proposition of diamonds vs synthetics is continuously and credibly spread through education and ongoing long term generic marketing, I believe that diamonds will not lose any of their unique shine as the most unique and loved mineral that nature has shared with us.

Let me finish by wishing you and the whole team at rough-polished.com a healthy, peaceful and successful 2019.

Vladimir Malakhov, Rough&Polished