A pilot project that creates a secure and transparent route to market for ethically sourced artisanal and small-scale mined (ASM) diamonds is scaling up its operations in Sierra Leone to give more miners the opportunity to benefit from the programme, diamond multinational De Beers Group, which is owned by diversified mining group Anglo American, said on Wednesday.
The project, called GemFair, provides ASM diamond miners with access to De Beers Group’s distribution channel, while seeking to improve ethical standards, working conditions and value for miners within the sector.
For the pilot project, GemFair initially worked with 16 mine sites in Sierra Leone but has, in the past six months, expanded this to include a further 38 sites.
GemFair has developed a digital solution to ensure the traceability of all diamonds registered through the programme. The toolkit contains an application (app) and dedicated tablet that creates a digital record of each diamond found.
The app records Global Positioning System locations and the diamond logging process requires the use of tamper-proof quantity recognition-coded ‘bag and tag’ equipment. The software works on- and offline so that it can be used in different locations.
In due course, the technology will be integrated with industry blockchain solution Tracr, led by De Beers, to prove the provenance and ethical sourcing of a diamond.
To incentivise mine owners to work with GemFair, a membership model has been introduced. Mine sites that meet a strict set of core requirements that are aligned with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s ‘Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas’, and which pass due diligence checks, can join the programme and sell diamonds to GemFair.
Miners then work with nongovernmental organisation Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) towards achieving full Maendeleo Diamond Standards certification, within a one-year timeframe.
“GemFair has partnered with the DDI, which has been instrumental in helping to formalise the ASM diamond sector in Africa,” De Beers said.
Since the launch in April 2018, GemFair has seen significant progress across its operations, opening offices in both Koidu and Freetown, and developing a set of publicly available ASM standards to ensure a best practice approach for responsible sourcing.
“The GemFair standards complement the Maendeleo Diamond Standards, which include standards relating to social, environmental and labour risks within the sector,” De Beers explained.
“Although the sector faces many challenges, we’ve been delighted with how the pilot has gone so far and it has proved its ability to use digital innovation to support responsible business practices and deliver traceability. We have identified opportunities to make it more impactful and are excited to expand the pilot’s reach to more sites in Sierra Leone,” said De Beers international relations and ethical initiatives senior VP Feriel Zerouki.
“The GemFair model has huge long-term potential to transform the ASM sector by formalising access to international markets and raising operating and ethical standards across the sector.”
Educating miners on diamond valuation is another component of the GemFair pilot. While registered miners have no obligation to accept offers to purchase diamonds through the GemFair buying office, they are provided with free training in diamond valuation so they can make an informed assessment about the value of their diamonds and negotiate the best possible deal.
Tutorials on diamond valuation can also be accessed by miners via the app, and equipment included in the toolkit is provided to assist miners in the valuation of their diamonds.
The digital solution also helps GemFair manage the membership and certification of each site and provides GemFair buyers with the assurance that diamonds offered for purchase are from registered sites.