GemFair can positively transform ASM sector, says De Beers

21st January 2020 By: Simone Liedtke - Writer

The artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector is in need of formalisation in order to establish itself as a legitimate source of diamond supply; however, faced with complex mining ecosystems and operating conditions that are vastly different from the large-scale diamond mining sector, De Beers says “the approach to supporting formalisation must be tailored, incremental and robust”.

While the ASM sector represents an important source of global diamond production and is a critical livelihood, artisanal miners face many challenges, including a lack of capital, low productivity and informal practices, according to the diamond miner.

Additionally, De Beers says legacy concerns regarding conflict diamonds also mean that ASM diamonds are “often perceived negatively by consumers, when the reality is that the vast majority of ASM production is not from conflict zones”.

De Beers Group industry relations and ethical initiatives senior VP Feriel Zerouki points out that these barriers result in artisanal miners lacking access to formal distribution channels. They also rarely receive fair value for their production, while simultaneously being considered as being “unethical” owing to a lack of consistent standards across the sector.

It is for this reason that De Beers launched GemFair in April 2018 in an effort to support the formalisation of the ASM sector by raising standards and opening up a new source of ethical diamond supply through De Beers Group’s distribution channel.

GemFair, of which Zerouki is GM, is the first programme of its kind to work directly with artisanal miners to improve working practices by providing a formal route to market, offering fair value, delivering education and training and tracing ethically sourced ASM diamonds directly from the source using a digital solution.

Ultimately, GemFair is focused on improving the standards, and thereby the reputation, of the ASM sector, as well as enhancing prospects for those who work in it.

The programme is underpinned by its digital solution in the form of both software (GemFair app) and hardware (GemFair digital toolkit) that ensures diamonds can be traced directly from the mine for those sites that are approved to participate in the programme.

Participation is dependent on meeting GemFair’s minimum criteria, aligned with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Due Diligence Guidelines for Responsible Supply Chain of Minerals, and miners must either participate in GemFair’s Responsible ASM Assurance Programme or the Diamond Development Initiative’s Maendeleo Diamond Standards (MDS) programme.

When GemFair launched, 16 MDS certified mine sites participated. This has increased to 94 sites, all of which align with the minimum ethical and operating requirements, says De Beers.

“While these are still early days and we continue to refine our approach, we’ve seen significant progress already, demonstrating GemFair’s potential to positively transform the sector,” Zerouki comments.