Girl's Best Friend
Diamonds are a girl's best friend, or so the saying goes. They are given as presents or as a sign of proposal for marriage, in the form of a ring. In fact, approximately 80% of marriage proposals include a diamond ring, suggesting that they are an incredibly popular choice when it comes to getting down on bent knee and asking the all important question. And, of course, the wealthier the person, the larger the ring.
But, in the midst of all this popularity, just where do these sparkly diamonds come from?
To answer this, we move from the perfect ambiance of the proposal, to the diamond mines of Africa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is here that we find the source of that ever-so-desired diamond.
Life or Death in Congo
Here the diamond takes on a whole new meaning for the miners, who work and toil for that ever-elusive gem. Diamonds are a sign that the miners can eat and, although the work is grueling, and can cause backaches, nothing is more important than feeding oneself or one's family. Finding a diamond, here, could literally be the difference between life and death, as the shiny gems provide the money for school or health care. One large diamond could give a miner approximately $100.
Although the small stream that joins the Congo River can be deemed as a significant resource of diamonds, an area that is home to some of the 65% of the world's diamonds, areas like this are also some of the most dangerous locations for the often young miners. The death of hundreds of miners each year occur due to tunnel collapses—collapses which happen so frequently that they are hardly reported.
Added to this, the $81.4 billion industry goes not without its fair share of controversy. In spite of the attempt to change the practice in the 2003 Kimberley Process—an international system which encourages the consumers that their purchased diamonds were free from conflict—the diamond industry is still tainted. In the midst of African war zones, these diamonds are utilized to pay for armed rebellious activities in war.
The Kimberley Process of 2003 may ensure that the origin of the diamonds is verified, but this doesn't stop the loopholes. Some diamonds that are mined within zones of war can slip through the net, and are sold on the international markets anyway. And it is also true that mining diamonds even apart from a war or conflict zone is difficult work. Those that mine here are often low-paid and vulnerable young workers.
So as consumers, what can we do to ensure the safety of miners in Africa? When purchasing a diamond, be sure to ask a few questions. Check with the jeweller to see if they are locating their diamonds reliably. And ask to see the human rights report, as all reliable companies should have one.
Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but, on the other end of the scale, they are a food source for starving miners.
Post by Sophia Mills Francis