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Conflict Diamond

Conflict Diamond

Introduction

Diamonds can be defined as precious stones made of pure carbon. Diamond is colorless and crystalline in form; it is a unique mineral since it is the hardest known substance and the greatest conductor of heat. Besides, the melting point of a diamond is 4,090oC. When mined and refined, diamonds are very important to the economy by means of their uses. For instance, speaker domes, windows, abrasives, engraving cutters, heat sinks and even antidotes for poisons are made from diamonds. Distribution of diamonds, initially, involves operating groups in the mining sites, which sold the uncut diamonds to the diamond cutters (Minerals.net, 2016). The cutters through their channels sold cut diamonds to wholesalers, who, in their turn, sold diamonds to the jewelry stores. There, the diamond final products are being sold to the public. Modern channels of distribution include also the internet.

However, there are also the diamonds, which enter the market through illegal means. They are referred to as conflict diamonds (PMF IAS, 2016). The United Nations (UN) defines conflict diamonds as “…diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council” (Diamondfacts.org, n.d.). Conflict diamonds are also known as blood or red diamonds because the income from them is used to fund rebel groups in war-torn areas. Conflict diamonds has led to violence in countries where they are mined. This paper discusses negative effects caused by circulation of the conflict diamonds, particularly, violence and environmental devastation, and lack of strict laws guarding the legit diamonds supply channels from an invasion of the conflict minerals.

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The areas mostly affected by the conflict diamonds are those in central and western Africa. The world became aware of the conflict diamonds in the late 1990s when Sierra Leone was critically in war. In those times, the amount of conflict diamonds in the global diamond market constituted 4% (Boersch-Supan, 2014). In an effort to eliminate circulation of the conflict diamonds, in 2003, the global diamond industry created the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme [KPCS] ( Armstrong, 2012). The KPCS calls for a close collaboration between the UN, governmental, and non-governmental organizations and the global diamond industry aimed at eradicating the conflict diamonds circulation by ensuring that every diamond that enters the diamonds supply channels is a conflict-free. Moreover, the scheme has a System of Warranties, which assures the consumers that the diamond they receive comes from a conflict free zone. Consequently, by the year 2015, the amount of conflict diamonds entering the legit diamond channels was reduced from 4% to 1%. Put another way, this means that 99% of the diamonds being transacted in the world are legitimate. However, the remaining 1% of diamonds have negative effects such as, in particular, violence and environmental devastation, which still need to be eliminated while there are no strict laws to curb a corruption induced by the conflict diamonds.

Violence

For many people, diamonds are supposed to signify love, joy and commitment. However, this is not always true, especially in countries that mine diamonds. The precious stones have turned to be a curse rather than a blessing. In some countries where diamonds are mined, the diamond recovery has moved from mining of commodity to mining of war, violence, and unspeakable human suffering. It has been found that most of the diamonds are mined in the violent and inhuman setting, which has led to bloodshed and abuse of human rights. Furthermore, violence is committed by governments and mining companies in the diamond fields. Even with the KPCS application, diamonds with a history of violence are still being mined and distributed through the legitimate channels. Violence and injustice have become an everyday bread in diamond mining (Amnesty International USA, 2016).

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One way, through which diamonds are leading to violence, is fueling the civil wars. In the past two decades, several countries in Africa endured brutal civil wars that resulted from diamonds mining. Some of these countries include Sierra Leone, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire. In addition, in 2013, the civil war erupted in the Central African Republic (Diamondfacts.org, n.d.). The fighting groups wanted to control the areas where diamonds were being mined; this led to bloodshed and loss of many lives. Overall, the civil wars in Africa, that have erupted because of the conflict diamonds, have led to a loss of about 3.7 million people, and thousands more were displaced (Armstrong, 2012). What is more, millions of people are still leaving within the consequences of civil wars, including a loss of family and friends, experiencing emotional and physical distress and homelessness.

Often, rebel groups commit killings, sexual violence and tortures at diamond fields. However, recently, it was found that governments and mining companies also commit atrocities at diamond fields in Africa. Meanwhile, those governments and mining companies are not operating in the war-torn countries, and the Kimberly Process certifies that diamonds are from the conflict-free zones. Many times, the process placed restrictions on diamonds that financed rebel groups in war-torn countries. Nevertheless, diamonds that are channeled from places where miners are killed or tortured by their own governments, security guards or mining companies are rarely subjected to the KPCS ban (Kimberley Process, 2016). These diamonds are certified as conflict-free yet violence has taken place in the process of mining.

Zimbabwe, for instance, is the country, in which the cases of human rights abuse, killing and tortures have been reported, but its diamonds are welcomed in the legit diamond supply channels. In 2008, valuable Marange diamond was recovered in eastern Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean army seized the diamond while massacring more than 200 miners who stood on its way. As if this was not enough, the soldiers enslaved adults and children in the diamond fields, and those who tried to disobey soldiers were beaten and tortured. It was also reported that more than $2 billion worth diamonds disappeared in the hands of military leader and allies of President Robert Mugabe (Global Witness2016). Currently, the army assigns private companies to manage works on the mines where community members still undergo torture and beatings. Families are relocated, live in poverty and corruption, and still, no one has been held responsible for the crimes. In 2009, the Kimberly Process banned Zimbabwean diamonds, but later, in 2011, the ban was omitted. The cases of violence by the army have not been ceased, yet the Kimberly Process certifies diamonds from Zimbabwe as conflict free. Indeed, conflict diamonds lead to violence from either the rebel groups or the governments and army (Amnesty International USA, 2016).

Environmental Devastation

Mining of the conflict diamonds leads to devastation of ecology. Most countries and areas where the conflict diamonds come from are not regulated and have an inadequate planning. In such a way, this has led to the environmental havoc in most parts of Africa and other parts of the world where the diamonds are mined. The damage to the environment is inevitable even when the legitimate diamonds are mined, but in a case of the legit diamonds mining, there are the ways to mitigate the effects. Meanwhile, for instance, in Angola, an irresponsible mining has led to soil erosion, relocation of local communities and deforestation. The mining industry in Angola has neglected the protection of rivers and streams; miners have changed the channels of rivers and constructed dams aimed to recover diamonds from the riverbeds. As a result, fish and wildlife have been exposed to danger (Mambondiyani, 2012).

Diamond mining requires a lot of water and, therefore, the water has been already dispersed in most parts of Africa. The irresponsible and unregulated mining of blood diamonds have even made it harder to find usable water. Since big amounts of water required for diamond mining are not available in most African countries, miners drain wells and springs. Consequently, this affects fish and other wildlife.

Apart from the devastation of an environment through water pollution, miners drill layers of rocks to get the diamonds, which leads to pollution of air in places close to diamond mines. In Africa, where the conflict diamonds are recovered, winds blow debris and dust from mining fields to other areas. In that way, respiratory illnesses in people, as well as complete asphyxia in plants, become common in the polluted areas (Armstrong, 2012).   

Therefore, in extreme cases, mining of the conflict diamonds can cause an entire collapse of ecosystems. Particularly, such is the case of the Kono District in Sierra Leone, where miners have left thousands of mining pits abandoned. In this area, thousands of kinds of wildlife have vanished, land that was fertile for farming is now desolate moonscape, the soil had been eroded and, thus, people can no longer live in this area. When in rains, the pits become filled with water and occupied by mosquitoes living people vulnerable to malaria and water-borne diseases.

Such environmental devastation has resulted from the irresponsible mining. The diamond mining is less harmful compared to other kinds of mining, such as gold, for example, since it does not require the use of toxic chemicals. If there are proper planning and regulation, impacts on the environment caused by diamond mining are manageable (Armstrong, 2012). However, in war-torn areas, planning and regulations are not observed, because the ruling groups are only interested on diamonds and cash that comes with diamonds. As a result, a devastation of the environment is developing in areas, where the conflict diamonds business takes place.

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Lack of Tight Laws

There is no tight law to control conflict diamonds trade. In 2000, a public outcry over the violence from diamond mining led to an establishment of the Kimberley Process. The certification scheme became effective in 2003. However, unfortunately, the KPSC is misleading to consumers and does little to stop violence in diamond mining areas. According to the Kimberly Process, members of the diamonds market are supposed to meet certain requirements, namely, they are not supposed to produce conflict diamonds, they are forced to trade diamonds only with Kimberly certified members, and they must attach the Kimberly Process Certificate to their exports. Regretfully, the Kimberly Process is easily evaded and diamonds from war torn areas find their way in the KPCS circle (Kimberley Process, 2016).  

In Kimberly Process, if the diamonds are not used to fund the rebel groups, then the diamonds are conflict free. The narrowness of the law allows diamonds, which are tied to rape, killings, tortures and beatings by the government and army, to be approved by the Kimberly Process. A good example is diamonds from Zimbabwe, which are certified by the Kimberly Process, yet in the places where mining takes place, the government is involved in killings, violence and torture of miners. Therefore, one can observe that the Kimberly Process shields abusers of human rights as well as mislead the consumers that the diamonds are certified (Global Witness, 2016).

Furthermore, the Kimberly Process leaves loopholes, though which the diamonds smuggling takes place, consequently, reducing a transparency and leading to criminal activities. In addition, when diamonds are exported through smuggling means the taxes are not being collected, which deprives governmental funds (Nicolson, 2013). More than that, in some countries, the government itself is involved in smuggling activities. For instance, the Zimbabwean president regime is involved in smuggling of diamonds, stealing millions of cash from the Zimbabwean treasury (Diamondfacts.org, n.d.).

Another good example of a country that is involved in smuggling of diamond is Venezuela, which produces 150,000 carats of diamonds annually but exports zero. In 2005, Venezuela halted its Kimberly Process and promised to oversee the process of mining within the two years to identify the faults. After the two years, Venezuela did not join to the Kimberly Process while continued mining its diamonds. The country is involved in 100% smuggling because it mines diamonds but none of them is exported via the Kimberly Process. The diamonds are being smuggled to the neighboring countries, namely, Brazil and Guyana, where they are then channeled into the distribution under the Kimberly Process certification (Diamondfacts.org, n.d.). Therefore, for the present time, there are no strict laws to stop conflict diamonds.

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Conclusion

Diamond is one of the most precious stones in the world. It is used in making windows, in construction, in a cutting of brass and even in medicine among many other uses. Diamonds mining takes place in most parts of central and western Africa and other parts of the world. There are a number of complaints that diamond mining leads to violence, killings, tortures and beatings of miners, especially in war-torn countries. It is also found that diamonds are used to fund rebel groups in the war-torn countries. The diamonds used in that manner are labeled as the conflict, red or blood diamonds. Aimed to prevent and eliminate the conflict diamonds entering to legitimate channels of diamonds market, the global diamond industry created the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme.

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Despite the Kimberly Process, the conflict diamonds are still being recovered and sold, which leads to violence, environmental devastation and weakening of the Kimberly Process certification. Violence is taking place in diamond mining countries, such as Zimbabwe, where violence is conducted by the government and army. In addition, the unplanned and unregulated conflict diamond mining has led to air pollution, a spread of disease, deforestation and soil erosion. Since the Kimberly law is not very strict, there are still some loopholes and the conflict diamonds through illegal means, such as smuggling, are channeled to the legitimate channels. Conflict diamonds can be eliminated if only the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme is revamped. The law should not narrow a definition of the conflict diamonds to the funding of rebel groups but should also include budgeting of governments and armies involved in violence. In addition, the chain of diamonds distribution should be well defined and strict laws regulating the mining process should be enforced.

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