Those of us working for a more ethical diamond and jewelry industry saw a major win last week when the U.S. government admitted that gold from artisanal mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and rough diamonds mined from Marange Diamond Fields in Zimbabwe are “produced, in whole or in part, using forced labor.”
The major earth-mined diamond players will have you believe that conflict diamonds and metals are an issue of the past, but this assertion by the US Customs and Border Patrols (CBP) demonstrates that they are still a very real problem in 2019. With this information came the announcement that CBP would issue Withhold Release Orders for gold mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and rough diamonds mined from Marange, Zimbabwe, along with 3 other products believed to be produced using forced labor.
Photo Credit: The New York Times
JCK Online reported that "Sasha Lezhnev, deputy director of policy for the Enough Project, notes that, out of 1,500 gold mines in the DRC, only 106 of them have been certified to not use forced labor."
Because it is illegal to import products made with forced labor, exporters of these products can re-export the detained shipments or submit information to CBP demonstrating that the goods are not in violation.
These conflict diamond products have been flooding the retail market for years, despite programs like the Kimberley Process. The conflict diamond definition, as per the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), is a “rough diamond mined in an area controlled by insurgent forces whose sale is used to finance anti-government military action”. This means that the diamonds mined, for example in Zimbabwe, which is notorious for killing, raping and maiming hundreds of artisanal miners, are considered “conflict-free” under the KPCS. This is because, despite being mined under horrific conditions, they did not fund armed forces. These “dirty diamonds” are being certified by the Kimberley Process, making them “clean” and then they are sold to unassuming diamond consumers who think they are purchasing “conflict-free” diamonds.
Photo Credit: Amnesty International via The Daily Mail
Although we recognize this is a step in the right direction, unfortunately, the new restrictions put in place will not stop the flow of conflict diamonds and metals into consumer products because they are smuggled out of the countries in question and mixed in with “clean” diamonds and metals from other areas.
MiaDonna was founded because there is no way to effectively regulate these materials, although we appreciate the efforts being pursued by the U.S. Government and their recognition that there is a problem with forced labor in the diamond and jewelry industry. There is no way to guarantee a diamond mined from the earth is conflict-free. That is why our products are made with lab-grown diamonds and gemstones and recycled metals. They are handcrafted in the United States by partners we trust so we can give consumers a product they love and are proud to wear. Together with conscious consumers, we are driving a more ethical diamond and jewelry industry.