De Beers Sells First Rough From Artisanal Mining Program
GemFair’s goal is to provide artisanal and small-scale miners with a viable, traceable path from mine to market for their diamonds.
The parcels of diamonds from the GemFair-registered ASM sites in Sierra Leone were sold via De Beers Group Auctions during its eighth sales cycle of the year last week.
The rough diamonds offered were of “varying qualities and sizes,” De Beers said, with the largest weighing 11 carats. All the gem-quality lots found buyers.
De Beers launched GemFair in early 2018 with the aim of achieving a goal that had largely proven elusive for the diamond industry—bringing ethically sourced, traceable diamonds from the ASM sector from mine to market.
To participate, miners must meet baseline ethical sourcing standards, attend formal training sessions, and agree to ongoing monitoring.
The program started with 14 registered ASM sites in Sierra Leone.
By the end of 2019, the program had expanded to 94 sites in the country with 1,410 workers. It finished last year with 136 sites and 1,995 workers, according to its annual report for 2020.
Today, there are 199 mine sites participating in GemFair employing an estimated 2,800 workers, De Beers said.
De Beers noted GemFair has been purchasing rough diamonds from its workers since its inception in 2018, but it had to address a number of issues before it was able to bring the stones to market.
There was the creation of the GemFair ASM Assurance Program, which is underscored by a set of standards that aim to ensure the diamonds are mined, processed, and transported in a “responsible and legitimate manner.”
De Beers also had to develop a digital traceability solution for GemFair that was both practical—meaning it had to involve tools that are durable, weatherproof, and can function in different light conditions—and risk-mitigating, like digitally supported bag-and-tag equipment and GPS location of diamonds.
And, like nearly every operation in the world, the program ran into delays and issues in 2020, as COVID-19 brought business and travel to a halt.
Steve Allan, head of GemFair, said last week’s sale of the first diamonds sourced from ASM sites is a “very exciting” milestone for the program and the artisanal miners who are part of it.
He said diamond buyers and jewelry designers have expressed a lot of interest in GemFair diamonds, and they are going to continue to find ways to bring the story of the diamonds to a wider audience.
“Despite the challenges, we are inspired by the partnerships we have built with the artisanal miners in Kono and look forward to continuing to expand and deepen our impact,” he said.
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