What are blood diamonds? Do you mean that 2006 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly? Well, no, but comparatively speaking, that is actually a great place to start.
Just like the term “blood money”, which refers to money paid or received at the cost of someone’s life, blood diamonds (also known as conflict diamonds) are the diamonds mined and traded illegally at the command of rebels. These diamonds are mined by men, women, and children, and were historically used to fund war-stricken areas, particularly in western and central Africa. These days, blood diamonds are causing bloodshed by inciting wars for their diamond-rich territories.
To the like-minded individual, diamonds represent love, commitment, beauty, and riches. But to those people in diamond-fueled countries that were exploited for their work and mandatorily and consecutively exposed to harsh environments, they are nothing more than a calamity.
Today’s blood diamonds are still circulating, having been mined by taking advantage of workers. Many of these laborers are unfairly compensated and are faced with unsightly and unsafe conditions that are giving obvious signs of deprivation and violence. On a smaller scale, diamond mining is an unregulated industry in Africa, so labor standards and laws are hardly enforced if they exist at all, which subjects miners to the mercy of their “employers”.
In many countries, child labor is profane and considered a serious crime. Children should be getting their education, playing, growing, and not needing to bear the weight of providing for a household. However, in the diamond mining industry in Africa, children and teens make up a decent size of employment. These children work for $2 a day in order to purchase their clothing and learning materials. Some young men reported receiving bonded work to mine diamonds, meaning they were reimbursed for their labors with housing, but not money.
Because of the insistent hours that these children are to work, many of them do not go to school. These individuals are being robbed of a legitimate education in exchange for a couple of dollars a day and the susceptibility of being in harm’s way.
Children are more vulnerable than adults when it comes to accidents and injuries that come from the physical demands of diamond mining. Since children are physically smaller than adults, they will be commissioned to put themselves in dangerous situations involving tight spaces and pits that may hold diamonds. Children’s bodies are much more fragile than adults’, and for either group, the wrong move could cost them their lives.
These workers are being paid the bare minimum to work in the worst conditions possible. These individuals are given hammers and bags and told to do a job that they have no prior experience or knowledge about. They are not given the right tools to do their jobs safely, and the concern for the possibility of an accident or death from collapses, heavy chemicals, cave-ins, mudslides, or even a slip of the hand is unaccounted for.
There are biological health issues that concern these workers as well. Many mines in Africa contain stagnant rainwater which then become feeding grounds for bacteria, germs, bugs, and biohazards. These laborers are essentially playing in the pits filled with malaria and dengue, which are diseases caused by parasites from mosquitoes.
Mining camps were also synonymous with the passing of HIV/AIDS as the result of thriving sexual exploitation and sex work. In some cases, children were also the victims of these sex trades.
Since the blood diamond laborers are so grossly underpaid, they’re very obviously not paid a living wage. Consequently, the miners did not have enough money to afford their basic needs like sanitary water, food, or medical care.
Forces in Zimbabwe were reportedly torturing and beating citizens in the diamond mines so they could control and have irrefutable access to the diamond camps. It was reported that the military and police forces took advantage of the unregulated industry and demonstrated killings, harassment, abuse, and other vile means of foul play on the laborers.
Historical wars broke out in Africa which killed millions of its innocent citizens. After the independence of Sierra Leone, rebel militias used the diamond mining industry to buy weapons that would keep them armed against their adversaries. This turned into the smuggling of these arms which only added salt to the wounds of war. It wasn’t until the year 2002 that these enemies were brought to the end of the war by outside forces and nations.
As of late, there are still rebellious militias who smuggle and trade blood diamonds, even after better precautions have been put in place.
The diamond industry has officially made an effort to fight against the production, selling, trading, and smuggling of blood diamonds through the enactment of the Kimberley Process, which was named after Kimberley, North Cape South Africa, which was the birthplace of the meeting that addressed the threat to the diamond industry. The KP is an international diamond initiative that inherits a certification scheme used to increase the oversight of the mining of diamonds. Founded in 2003, the KP acts by prohibiting trades with countries that are not participants. KP-certified diamonds are securely transported using sealed containers that are only exported with a Kimberley Process Certificate which approves that the diamonds were not ascertained or beneficial in any way to rebel movements.
Diamonds are identified by a Certificate of Origin from an officially authorized export. When the conditions are not met, and origin cannot thoroughly be verified, a country can be denied as a participant, or removed from the existing list of participants. This system ensures that the diamonds come from a legitimate source and controlled area so the diamond industry can continue to make an ethical profit. Currently, there are 49 participants who represent the legitimate diamond export and import countries of the world.
The Kimberley system has tried to increase the amount of clarity in the government’s on-looking of diamond mining by requesting that there be records of where the diamonds come from so they can be held accountable for possible blood diamonds. However, there still seem to be no guarantees that these conflict diamonds have ceased being mined.