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'Blood diamonds' poses a threat to the industry

By unknown | Nov 30, 2006 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Thomas McLachlan

Thomas McLachlan

The diamond industry is facing fears that soon-to-be-released Hollywood movie "Blood Diamond", which exposes the conflict and questionable activities of the industry in past years, could spark a revolt that brings it to its knees in the same way that animal rights activists crippled the fur industry in the 1990s.

But there are two sides to this storyline, according to a new report released by Business Leadership South Africa.

The report, which looks at diamonds and development in southern Africa, broadens the topic by looking at the positive effects the diamond industry has on economies and raises an ethical dilemma - buy a diamond and you could be supporting conflict in African countries, but don't buy a diamond and you could be putting a miner with a family in Botswana out of a job.

"Conflict diamonds are not diamonds as such, but rather political conflict in areas where diamonds are mined," said the report's co-author Brooks Spector.

Spector said that the diamond industry has been a positive force for the countries in which it operates, "it has created jobs, earned foreign exchange, and contributed to the development of infrastructure available to all".

Aside from this point, Spector said that the industry had successfully implemented a system, known as the Kimberley certification process, which had resulted in less than 1 percent of the world's diamonds being "blood diamonds".

He added that it was questionable whether the industry and those working in African countries would be able to handle a collapse in the demand of diamonds.

In a recent article which tackled issues relating to the topic Fortune Magazine said it was difficult to tell whether consumers were buying ethically-mined diamonds.

"Consumers cannot be sure which diamonds are blood diamonds. And therein lies the potential for a boycott," it said.

Rory More O'Ferrall, director of external affairs for diamond miner De Beers, said: "Diamonds are a luxury, so we depend completely on the consumer's faith.

"Anything that affects the integrity of that; we need to address," he said.

Spector said that aside from the economic benefits of diamond mining, there was also the role that the industry played in the alleviation of HIV-Aids.

"De Beers offers free HIV-Aids screening for its employees and contractors, as well as treatment and ongoing medical support for employees and life partners." Spector said.


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