Deemed Not Quite “Blood Diamonds,” Gems Go on Sale

Zimbabwe diamond map

Much has happened since Fast Company published a special report, last December, on the shady and violent dealings surrounding Zimbabwe’s diamond mines. Simultaneous with the report, the world’s largest electronic diamond-trading network banned diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamond Fields, citing human rights violations. Later that month, we noted that Foreign Policy singled out Zimbabwe as the “perfect illustration of what the Kimberley Process [the watchdog group that’s supposed to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the diamond trade] was created to address as well as the difficulties in fulfilling that mandate.”

Today, it seems that the difficulties may have overcome the mandate, with the AP reporting that Zimbabwe began selling hundreds of thousands of carats of rough diamonds mined from the region to buyers from Israel, India, Lebanon, and Russia. The Kimberley Process investigators had concluded that virtual slaves were forced to dig diamonds from the Marange region, and that soldiers who raped civilians smuggled them out of the region. But according to the Kimberley Process, these diamonds don’t count as “blood diamonds,” notes the AP, since they are “mined by a government and not a rebel group.”

No word yet on exactly how much the diamonds will fetch, but it is thought to be something like $2 billion–equal to a third of the country’s entire debt. Somehow it seems unlikely that that money will be funneled directly to the children, some as young as 10 years old, that Human Rights Watch claims were forced to work 11-hour days without payment. (The country’s mines ministry, for its part, contests such claims as “falsehoods.”)

[Illustration by Brian Rea]DZ