Diamonds

Countries Where Diamonds are Reportedly Produced with Forced Labor and/or Child Labor

  • Angola (FL, CL)

  • Central African Republic (FL, CL)

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (FL, CL)

  • Guinea (FL, CL)

  • Liberia (FL, CL)

  • Sierra Leone (FL, CL)

Diamonds (cut and polished)

  • India (CL)

Where are diamonds reportedly produced with trafficking and/or child labor?

According to the U.S. Department of State 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report, diamonds are produced with forced or forced child labor in Angola, Central African Republic, DRC, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.[1] The U.S. Department of Labor’s 2016 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor reports that diamonds are produced with forced labor in Angola and Sierra Leone, and with child labor in Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.[2] The U.S. Department of Labor notes that gemstones, possibly including diamonds, are cut and polished with child labor in India [3]

The U.S. Department of State 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report lists India, Sierra Leone, Angola and Liberia as Tier 2 countries. Guinea and DRC are listed as Tier 2 Watch List counties. Central African Republic is listed as a Tier 3 country.[4]

[1] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2016. https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/258876.pdf

[2] U.S. Department of Labor. 2016 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. 2016. https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/TVPRA_Report2016.pdf

[3] U.S. Department of Labor. 2016 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. 2016. https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/TVPRA_Report2016.pdf

[4] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2016. https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/258876.pdf

What does trafficking and/or child labor look like in the production of diamonds?

According to some reports, trafficking in Angola’s diamond sector can be a result of bonded labor in which “sponsors” pay for a miner’s expenses and are reimbursed through a portion of the mined diamonds.[5] In Sierra Leone, miners, mostly young men, enter into bonded labor whereby they receive tools and housing but no compensation for their work.[6]

The phenomenon of middlemen, or “collectors” is common in artisanal mining in a number of countries. The informal nature of the sector leads to a setup in which miners are paid far less than the diamonds’ worth by middlemen, who are often in charge of recruiting miners and may charge fees for the use of equipment. Sometimes miners are unaware of the actual worth of the diamond, or they are in debt to the collector and have no choice but to sell to them. In Central African Republic (CAR), for example, there are 80,000-100,000 artisanal miners, a mere five percent of whom are formally registered as miners with the government. Middlemen, who are sometimes even government officials, therefore play a large role in the diamond supply chain, leading miners into cycles of debt that make them more vulnerable to forced labor.[7] In Brazil, despite protests from indigenous communities, armed miners have taken over mines on the traditional lands of the Cinta-Larga tribe.[8] Reporting from Insight Crime describes a situation in which lenders coerce indigenous people into accepting unfair interest rates or other forms of credit. When the lenders seek repayment, the indigenous have few options but to allow the miners onto their land.[9]

In Angola, the Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, DRC, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, diamonds have been linked with the funding of violent and protracted civil wars, which inspired the phrase ‘blood diamonds.’ In the Central African Republic, human rights groups have documented that diamonds have funded the two primary parties of the armed conflict and the U.N. noted in May 2017 that violence was significantly on the rise, particularly in diamond rich areas.[10] Reuters reported that the uptick in violence was at least partially due to armed groups struggling for control of diamond mines, citing aid workers.[11] 115 bodies were found in a diamond mining town in May 2017.[12]

Armed groups have employed children in a number of these and other conflicts, most notably as combatants. In the Central African Republic, UNICEF has reported that nearly 10,000 child soldiers have been recruited since 2013,[13] with the UN noting in 2015 that children there are being used by armed groups as informants, cooks, messengers, and even for purposes of sexual exploitation. In the DRC, there was a marked increase of violations against children, with 2,549 confirmed by the UN in 2015.[14]

In June 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Zimbabwe’s army used forced and child labor to mine diamonds in eastern Zimbabwe, specifically in the Marange fields.[15] Citizens that did not cooperate with the operation were allegedly beaten and tortured. There is evidence of an army-led massacre of 200 local miners in 2008.[16] A local Zimbabwean NGO, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), has documented regular abuses against illegal miners and local resident since mining operations were nationalized in early 2016.[17]  Local residents have reported that police have infringed on their freedom of movement, with door-to-door searches for illegal diamond miners creating a climate of intimidation.[18]

An estimated one million children aged 5–17 work in small-scale mining (so-called artisanal mining) globally, and the number is said to be increasing.[19] In Sierra Leone and other post-conflict societies, children, particularly orphans or children living without their parents, may work in the diamond mines as a means to support themselves and their families. Mining, though extremely hazardous, offers livelihood opportunities that are lacking in countries with collapsed economies. Due to their small size, children are used for excavation work in small pits.

Artisanal diamond mining is hazardous for all workers and for children in particular. Workers are exposed to heavy minerals and chemicals, mudslides and floods, and collapsing pit walls. A number of fatal mine collapses have been reported in recent years, including incidents in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa. The physical nature of mining commonly leads to injuries, such as hernias for example, and general exhaustion.

Commercial sex work and sexual exploitation, including the possibility of sex trafficking, are present around mining camps, due to the transitory nature of the workforce and isolation of the worksites.Mining camps around pits reportedly have high rates of HIV/AIDS.[20] The US State Department reported in 2016 that Congolese migrants, some of them children, were victims of sex trafficking around mining camps in Angola.[21] In Sierra Leone, the U.S. Department of State notes that victims are recruited to mining centers for forced labor and sexual exploitation. [22]  Drugs and prostitution are also reported to be common around diamond mines in Brazil.[23]

Mining leads to degraded and polluted ecosystems in surrounding areas. The Environmental Justice Atlas notes that mining can lead to desertification and deforestation, crop reduction, and loss of biodiversity, in addition to other environmental hazards.[24] In countries such as Angola and Sierra Leone, land that is cleared for open pit mines becomes vulnerable to soil erosion, and in turn, flooding.[25] Around the Marange mines in Zimbabwe, numerous rivers downstream from the mines have been found to contain bacterial, chemical, and heavy-metal pollution. Cattle have died and villagers have gotten sick after drinking the water.[26] A toxic chemical compound called ferro-silicon contains chromium and nickel, both carcinogenic metals, and iron, which can be poisonous in large quantities.[27]

In India, children are reportedly involved in cutting and polishing diamonds. These children are exposed to repetitive stress injuries, eyesight strain, and toxic dust.[28]

[5] Allen, Michael. “The ‘Blood Diamond’ Resurfaces.” The Wall Street Journal. June 19, 2010. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704198004575311282588959188

[6] Boas, Morten and Anne Hatloy. Living in a Material World: Children and Alluvial Diamond Mining in Kono Distrcit, Sierra Leone. Fafo. 2006. http://www.fafo.no/pub/rapp/515/515.pdf

[7] Amnesty International. Chains of Abuse: The Case of Diamonds from the Central African Republic and the Global Diamond Supply Chain. September 30, 2015. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr19/2494/2015/en/

[8] Abreu, Fellipe and Luiz Felipe Silva. “How Illegal Diamond Mining Threatens Brazil’s Indigenous Communities.” InSight Crime. October 14, 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/how-illegal-diamond-mining-threatens-brazil-s-indigenous-communities

[9] Abreu, Fellipe and Luiz Felipe Silva. “How Illegal Diamond Mining Threatens Brazil’s Indigenous Communities.” InSight Crime. October 14, 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/how-illegal-diamond-mining-threatens-brazil-s-indigenous-communities

[10] Global Witness. Central African Republic Diamonds Not Ready for Sale. October 2014. https://www.globalwitness.org/en/blog/central-african-republic-diamonds-not-ready-sale/

United Nations. Spreading violence in Central African Republic sets off ‘loud alarm bells’ – UN human rights chief. May 17, 2017. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56760#.WUGYjJDytPa

Reuters. “Red Cross finds 115 bodies in CAR diamond-mining town.” May 17, 2017. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-centralafrica-violence-idUSKCN18D1CO

[11] Reuters. “Red Cross finds 115 bodies in CAR diamond-mining town.” May 17, 2017. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-centralafrica-violence-idUSKCN18D1CO

[12] Reuters. “Red Cross finds 115 bodies in CAR diamond-mining town.” May 17, 2017. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-centralafrica-violence-idUSKCN18D1CO

13] UNICEF. “Press Release: At least 65,000 children released from armed forces and groups over the last 10 years.”  February 20, 2017. https://www.unicef.org/media/media_94892.html

[14] UN General Assembly Security Council. Report of the Secretary-General: Children and armed conflict. April 20, 2016. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/70/836&Lang=E&Area=UNDOC

[15] Human Rights Watch (HRW). “Stop Blood Diamonds.” 2010. http://www.kintera.org/c.nlIWIgN2JwE/b.5657811/k.FB1A/Stop_Blood_Diamonds/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx

[16] British Broadcasting Company (BBC). “Zimbabwe Army ‘Runs Diamond Mine.’” June 26, 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8120931.stm

Smith, David. “Children forced to mine Zimbabwe diamonds.” The Guardian. June 26, 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jun/26/zimbabwe-diamonds-children-mugabe

[17] Mambondiyani, Andrew. “Abuse, displacement, pollution: the legacy of Zimbabwe’s Marange diamonds.” Mongabay. March 15, 2016. https://news.mongabay.com/2016/03/abuse-displacement-pollution-the-legacy-of-zimbabwes-marange-diamonds/

[18] Mambondiyani, Andrew. “Abuse, displacement, pollution: the legacy of Zimbabwe’s Marange diamonds.” Mongabay. March 15, 2016. https://news.mongabay.com/2016/03/abuse-displacement-pollution-the-legacy-of-zimbabwes-marange-diamonds

[19] UNICEF, Children’s Rights and the Mining Sector, March 2015. https://www.unicef.org/csr/files/UNICEF_REPORT_ON_CHILD_RIGHTS_AND_THE_MINING_SECTOR_APRIL_27.pdf

Swedwatch. Childhood Lost: Diamond mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and weaknesses of the Kimberley Process. December 21, 2016. https://businesshumanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/report%20Swedwatch_DRC_diamonds.pdf

[20] Cahill, Petra. “A Diamond’s Journey: Grim Reality Tarnishes Glitter.” NBC News. June 26, 2009. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15842524/ns/world_news/t/diamonds-journey-grim-reality-tarnishes-glitter/#.U2K21vldUyg

[21] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2016. https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2016/258711.htm

[22] U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. 2016. https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2016/258711.htm

[23] Abreu, Fellipe and Luiz Felipe Silva. “How Illegal Diamond Mining Threatens Brazil’s Indigenous Communities.” InSight Crime. October 14, 2015. http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/how-illegal-diamond-mining-threatens-brazil-s-indigenous-communities

[24] Environmental Justice Atlas. “Marange diamond mines pollute rivers, Zimbabwe.” 2014. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/marange-diamond-mines-pollute-rivers-zimbabwe

[25] Cahill, Petra. “A Diamond’s Journey: Grim Reality Tarnishes Glitter.” NBC News. June 26, 2009. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15842524/ns/world_news/t/diamonds-journey-grim-reality-tarnishes-glitter/#.WTBX1WjyuUl

[26] Mambondiyani, Andrew. “The Pollution Fallout From Zimbabwe’s Blood Diamonds” Yale Environment 360. May 25, 2013. http://e360.yale.edu/features/the_pollution_fallout_from_zimbabwes_blood_diamonds

[27] http://archive.kubatana.net/html/archive/env/120730zela.asp?sector=ENV)

[28] Hassain, Hakina Sadat. “A Diamond’s Journey: Grime behind the Glitter.” NBC News. June 26, 2009.   http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15842528/ns/world_news/t/diamonds-journey-grime-behind-glitter/#.U2FJh1fijW5

Diamond Production and Supply Chain

Diamonds are mined through hard-rock, open-pit, or alluvial mining. Alluvial mining, where miners pan for diamonds in water, is most likely to include artisanal and small-scale mining as little specialized equipment is required. Approximately 20 percent of diamonds are mined via artisanal, or small-scale, mining operations.[29] This type of diamond production is most likely to feature forced and/or child labor.

After mining, raw diamonds are sent to one of a few global diamond sorting and cutting centers. These include Tel Aviv, Israel, Antwerp, Belgium and Surat, India. At these centers diamonds from all locations are mixed together, making traceability difficult. Some producing countries, such as Zimbabwe, are also beginning to cut and polish their own diamonds.

New York and London are major centers of diamond sales. The diamond industry is very centralized, with just a few major corporations like De Beers and ALROSA accounting for the majority of global production and trade.

Eight and a half billion rough diamonds, or 65 percent of the global trade, are from African countries, including those that have been cited for forced and/or child labor.[30]

[29] Swedwatch. Childhood Lost: Diamond mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and weaknesses of the Kimberley Process. December 21, 2016. https://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/report%20Swedwatch_DRC_diamonds.pdf

[30] World Diamond Council. Diamond Industry Fact Sheet. http://www.diamondfacts.org/pdfs/media/media_resources/fact_sheets/Diamond_Industry_Fact_Sheet.pdf

Swedwatch. Childhood Lost: Diamond mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and weaknesses of the Kimberley Process. December 21, 2016. https://businesshumanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/report%20Swedwatch_DRC_diamonds.pdf

How do Trafficking and/or Child Labor in Diamond Production Affect Me?

Diamonds are used in jewelry and industrial tools.

With the slogan “A diamond is forever,” De Beers marketed diamond rings as the symbol of love and fidelity. Approximately 75 percent of American brides wear a diamond ring.[31] After an increase of 2.9 percent in global diamond sales in 2014,[32] the market slumped, and revenues decreased by 24 percent in 2015. It continued to recover in the first half of 2016, driven by growing middle classes in India and China, as well as steady US demand.[33]

Industrial uses of diamonds, such as cutting and drilling, account for 70 percent of all diamonds, generally those of lesser quality.[34]

[31] Sullivan, Courtney J. “How Diamonds Became Forever.” New York Times. May 3, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/fashion/weddings/how-americans-learned-to-love-diamonds.html

[32] De Beers Group. The Diamond Insight Report. 2015. https://www.debeersgroup.com/content/dam/de-beers/corporate/images/insight-report/pdf/DeBeers_Insight_Report_2015.pdf.downloadasset.pdf

[33] Linde, Olya, Aleksey Martynov, Ari Epstein and Stephane Fischler. “The Global Diamond Industry 2016: The Enduring Allure of Timeless Gems.” Bain & Company. December 5, 2016. http://www.bain.com/publications/articles/global-diamond-industry-report-2016.aspx

[34] World Diamond Council. Diamond Industry Fact Sheet. http://www.diamondfacts.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=118&Itemid=156&lang=en

EXAMPLES

What Governments, Corporations, and Others are Doing

The Kimberly Process: Protection against abuses in diamond production?

The Kimberly Process (KP) emerged in response to the increased use of conflict or ‘blood’ diamonds to fund violent civil wars in Africa. It is a “joint government, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds.”[35] The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme is intended to guarantee that diamonds are “conflict free.” However, this process does not cover all human rights abuses but is limited to “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.” The NGO Global Witness stated in 2010 that “due to the weaknesses in the Kimberley Process, and the lack of self-regulation by the diamond industry, it is still very difficult for consumers to know if they are buying a ‘clean’ diamond.”[36] Global Witness resigned as an official KP observer in 2011 over these concerns.[37]

These debates came to a head recently in Zimbabwe, where efforts by the KP to address human rights concerns were widely seen as ineffective when the appointed monitor released disputed diamonds for shipment and sale without approval. While human rights advocates have asked that diamonds from Zimbabwe be boycotted, shipments have continued to enter the global market.[38] On June 23, 2011, KP chairman Mathieu Yamba officially lifted the ban on diamond exports from the Marange fields, despite evidence that “serious human rights abuses and rampant smuggling” still occurred.  Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the KP to address the labor abuses in Zimbabwe’s diamond fields. HRW stated that “serious abuses in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields in recent years have exposed the KP’s inability to effectively address human rights violations by government security forces related to diamond mining.”[39]

A 2015 Amnesty International report on the diamond industry in the Central African Republic (CAR) criticized the KP for failing to force companies sourcing from the CAR to do their due diligence. The report sees this failure as a result of the process’s inability to address other human rights abuses not related to conflict wars, as well as countries’ internal markets for diamonds.[40] Global Witness has noted that although diamonds from CAR were banned in 2013, diamonds funding armed groups still reached global supply chains.[41] A U.N. expert panel noted that in addition to funding the conflict in CAR, these diamonds were also funding armed groups in Cameroon and Chad.[42]

In part due to the increasing criticism of the KP, Martin Rapaport, head of the Rapaport diamond trading company, endorsed a more stringent social standard in diamond production. He called for diamonds “that are legal and not directly involved in severe human rights violations … freely, fairly and legally traded.” The phrase “directly involved in severe human rights violations” is defined as diamonds whose “physical production involves murder, rape, physical violence, or forced servitude.”[43]

In addition to the Kimberly Process initiatives with a focus on diamonds include the Madison Dialogue, the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), and the Diamond Development Initiative. The Madison Dialogue and RJC are both voluntary company initiatives with multi-stakeholder consultative components. The RJC launched a certification system for diamonds and gold in 2009, but some systems have received criticism. In 2013, a group of stakeholders published a report citing weak standards around protection of indigenous people, protection of impacted communities, conflict zones, workers’ rights to freedom of association and grievance mechanisms, lack of supply chain due diligence for forced and child labor and environmental targets.[44]  In 2016, the RJC renewed their partnership with the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) with a stated focus to align standards and improve practices in these areas.[45]

Botswana has often been described as a success story of how diamond mining can directly benefit an entire country. This has been due in part to a low level of corruption, effective management of concessions and mines, and fiscal responsibility.[46] Debswana Diamond Co. is a public-private partnership between De Beers and government of Botswana that has made significant CSR efforts in addition to becoming an extremely profitable company. They have sought to address the high rate of HIV/AIDS around diamond mines and also invest in socio-economic programming in mining communities.[47]

[35] The Kimberley Process (KP). Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. www.kimberleyprocess.com/download/getfile/4

[36] Global Witness. “Industry Must Refuse Diamonds Certified by Rogue Monitor.” November 16, 2010. http://www.globalwitness.org/library/industry-must-refuse-zimbabwe-diamonds-certified-rogue-monitor

[37] Swedwatch. Childhood Lost: Diamond mining in the Democratic Republic of the

Congo and weaknesses of the Kimberley Process. December 21, 2016. https://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/report%20Swedwatch_DRC_diamonds.pdf

[38] Global Witness. “Industry Must Refuse Diamonds Certified by Rogue Monitor.” November 16, 2010. http://www.globalwitness.org/library/industry-must-refuse-zimbabwe-diamonds-certified-rogue-monitor

[39] Human Rights Watch (HRW). “Zimbabwe: Diamond Abuses Show Need for Reforms.” June 4, 2012. http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/06/04/zimbabwe-diamond-abuses-show-need-reforms

[40] Amnesty International. Chains of Abuse: The Case of Diamonds from the Central African Republic and the Global Diamond Supply Chain. September 30, 2015. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr19/2494/2015/en/

[41] Global Witness. Kimberly Process Campaign Briefing. https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/conflict-diamonds/kimberley-process/

[42] Reuters. “Central African Republic to resume diamond exports after 3-year ban.” July 6, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/centralafrica-diamonds-idUSL8N18Y2EX

[43] Rapaport Diamond Network. Human Rights and the Diamond Industry-The Way Forward. http://www.diamonds.net/Conference/2010/

[44] Earthworks. How RJC Certification Fails to Create Responsible Jewelry. May 22, 2013.  http://www.earthworksaction.org/library/detail/more_shine_than_substance#.U2E-l1fijW4

[45] Responsible Jewellery Council. Alliance for Responsible Mining. ARM and RJC strengthen collaboration to facilitate responsible jewellery supply chains. July 2016. http://www.responsiblejewellery.com/files/RJC-ARM-PR-Final.pdf

[46] Cahill, Petra. “A Diamond’s Journey: Grim Reality Tarnishes Glitter.” NBC News. June 26, 2009. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15842524/ns/world_news/t/diamonds-journey-grim-reality-tarnishes-glitter/#.WTBX1WjyuUl

[47] Ramaphane, Rearabilwe. “Debswana profits grow.” Weekend Post. May 2, 2017. http://www.weekendpost.co.bw/wp-news-details.php?nid=3793

LEARN MORE

Visit the website of Global Witness, which in 2003 was co-nominated for the Nobel Prize for its work on blood diamonds.

Read Swedwatch’s 2016 report on child labor in the DRC’s diamond mining industry.

Read Amnesty International’s 2015 report on human rights abuses in the artisanal mining sector in CAR.

Read an article about diamond mining in Brazil’s indigenous communities.