De beers to launch digital programme as part of clean up plans for blood diamonds in Africa

The world’s largest rough diamonds producer by value Anglo American’s De Beers today announced that it is preparing to pilot a programme called GemFair. This is in order to create a secure and transparent route to the market for ethically-sourced artisanal and small-scale mined (ASM) diamonds.

With the use of dedicated technology, GemFair will record ASM production at mine sites that meet demonstrable ethical standards. This aims to also help the purchase of rough diamonds from approved locations while helping improve working conditions and livelihoods for those working in the sector. The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) revealed that up to 20 percent of global gem-quality diamond supplies are produced by artisanal miners, who typically wash gravel by hand in conditions that are often unhygienic and dangerous.

“The ASM sector represents a critical income source for many poverty-affected communities,” said Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group. “However, due 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.”

According to De Beers, the pilot will run in Sierra Leone where there are a lot of artisanal mines that have been formalized by the government. This is part of the recent initiatives by the industry to help clean the tainted reputation of blood diamonds that was used for financing chaos, conflict and criminality in poor countries, which include Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The pilot programme will run in partnership with the Diamond Development Initiative, a non-government organization that has been working to formalize so-called artisanal mining in Africa.

“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,” Cleaver said

How the app works

The app is a software application installed on a tablet given to the miners. It shows a GPS location where the diamonds have been extracted and allows for a record of the production process. The software can work both online and offline in remote areas.

The miners are also provided with digital scales to weigh their diamonds and a tamper-proof bag where they can be deposited and then passed safely through the supply chain.

If the GemFair Technology is successful, it will be integrated into a new blockchain platform De Beers is developing.

The pre-pilot phase will commence this month, with the aim of a first purchase occurring later in 2018. There is, however, no set timeframe for the pilot to be completed.