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COVID-19 restrictions give rise to illegal diamond, gold mining and trading – HRW

26 november 2020
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Image credit: Hans (Pixabay)

There has been an increase in illegal gold and diamond mining and trading in several countries in Africa and Latin America, in part due to restrictions on the legal movement of resources and reduced government monitoring of laws and regulations, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
It said in a report that as a result mining communities are under heightened risks of exploitation, abuse, and environmental damage by illegal mining operators.
"For example, a civil society activist in Guinea said that illegal diamond mining has risen, as security forces were no longer monitoring mining activities during the lockdown," it said.
"Observers in Ghana noted a similar increase in illegal gold mining, including in rivers and forest reserves, as state control and monitoring of mining areas were drastically reduced due to lockdown rules."
Meanwhile, HRW said the COVID-19 pandemic has posed vast challenges for the jewellery and watch industry, a major market for gold, diamonds, and other minerals.
It said jewellery companies have had to close stores, and consumer demand has slumped. 
"Companies that were investing in responsible sourcing have diverted attention and resources to more immediate crisis management measures," HRW said.
"But now more than ever, because of the increased risk of abuse, jewellery companies should conduct human rights due diligence to ensure that they do not cause or contribute to rights abuses in their supply chains."

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished