JOHANNESBURG – Diamond miner De Beers is preparing to pilot a programme, called GemFair, to support the formalisation of artisanal and small-scale (ASM) diamond mining and trading.
This programme will create a secure and transparent route to market for ethically sourced ASM diamonds.
GemFair will use dedicated technology to record ASM production at mine sites that meet demonstrable ethical standards, with the aim of buying rough diamonds from approved locations, while helping to improve working conditions and livelihoods for those working in the ASM sector.
GemFair is partnering with the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) for the pilot.
The DDI is a nongovernment organisation that has been leading efforts to formalise the diamond ASM sector in several parts of Africa.
Miners that wish to participate in the GemFair pilot must be certified by DDI and must meet standards specific to the GemFair business model.
Once ethically certified, De Beers will provide qualified miners with a technology solution that includes an app and dedicated tablet, supported by a diamond ‘toolkit’ that will enable the digital tracking of ASM diamonds throughout the supply chain.
The pilot will run in Sierra Leone, where a number of artisanal mine sites are already participating in the DDI’s Maendeleo Diamond Standards programme and where significant advancements have been made by the Sierra Leone government to formalise the ASM sector.
De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver said the ASM sector represents a critical income source for many poverty-affected communities. However, owing to parts of the sector being largely informal and unregulated, it lacks access to established international markets and the ability to derive fair value for participants.
“By providing a secure route to market, offering fair prices and helping to raise standards, we hope to play a role in enhancing the prospects for those working in the sector, while also potentially opening up a new source of supply for De Beers over the longer term,” he stated.
DDI executive director Dorothée Gizenga said the DDI is focused on ensuring that ASMs have access to the opportunities, information and tools that help create self-sustaining communities and formally recognise the sector’s contribution to economic development.
“We believe GemFair has the potential to significantly transform the sector by providing a new and secure route to market through the world’s leading diamond company. We look forward to continuing to work with De Beers, the government of Sierra Leone and all other stakeholders as we progress,” she said.
The pre-pilot phase of GemFair will involve setting up a local presence in Sierra Leone and working with the DDI and registered mine sites to ensure the agreed standards are being met, that participating miners are trained in how to use the technology solution, and that they have an enhanced understanding of diamond classification.
Once GemFair and the DDI are confident that the sites are compliant and the technology is working effectively, the pilot will begin with GemFair starting to buy diamonds from participating miners.
While offers will be made for any diamonds presented for sale, regardless of quality, miners will be under no obligation to sell to GemFair if they elect not to do so. Any approved purchases will be sold via De Beers’ auction sales channel.
The pre-pilot phase will start this month, with the aim of a first purchase occurring later this year. There is no set timeframe for the pilot to be completed.
Extensive research to understand the ASM sector and its specific needs, sees the fit-for-purpose technology solution De Beers developed comprising a tablet and a software application that incorporates Global Positioning System locations and quick response-coded ‘bag and tag’ equipment.
The software has been designed to work both online and offline, to support the ability of miners to use it in different locations. The diamond toolkit includes hardware that can work in tough rural conditions, including being powered by solar chargers.
The programme also involves providing participating miners with training on diamond classification to help improve their understanding of the products they sell.
If proven successful, the technology used in GemFair will be integrated with the diamond industry blockchain platform De Beers is currently developing, allowing the ASM sector to participate in the blockchain and providing an added layer of assurance regarding ASM production.