Easily concealed, immensely valuable and largely untraceable, stones from rebel-held mines have raised billions of dollars on world markets to finance insurgencies in several african countries against the legitimate governments.
The United Nations 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’. These diamonds are also referred to as ‘blood diamonds’.
For years these illegal market has allowed rebel leaders to arm and equip their armies in violation of UN weapons and financial sanctions. Rebel armies in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo exploited the alluvial diamond fields of these countries in order to finance wars of insurgency. Alluvial diamonds, unlike those mined in the deep kimberlite ‘pipes’ of Botswana, Russia and Canada, are found over vast areas of territory, often only a few inches or feet below the surface of the earth. Alluvial diamonds have proven difficult to manage and to regulate. Because of their high weight-to-value ratio, the ease with which they can be mined, and endemic corruption in the global diamond market, alluvial diamonds became a ready target for rebel armies.
The trade in conflict diamonds began in the early 1990s with Jonas Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, but was quickly copied by the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, with assistance from Liberia’s warlord president, Charles Taylor, who is now being tried in The Hague for war crimes and has recently showed up in western newspaper for having allegedly gifted top-model Naomi Campbell with a few illicit stones.
Even if the diamonds industries used to inscribe the commerce of conflict diamonds in an optimistic 4% figure, NGOs involved in the fight against this trade like Partnership Africa Canada stated that as much as 15% of the world’s $10 billion annual rough diamond production fell into the category of conflict diamonds in the late 1990s.
A most important trade sector for South Africa
Today diamonds are mined in about 25 countries but roughly 49% of diamonds originate from central and southern Africa, while significant sources of the mineral have been discovered in Canada, India, Russia, Brazil and Australia. South Africa is the fourth diamond producer country in the world by value.
The story of diamonds in South Africa begins in 1866, when 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs found a transparent stone on his father’s farm, on the south bank of the Orange 結婚鑽戒 River and Kimberley, the present capital of Northern Cape, became ground-zero for the South African diamond industry.
The largest company to operate a diamond mine in South Africa during the diamond rush was the De Beers Company, founded by Cecil Rhodes. The De Beers empire was started on a farm owned by two Boer War settlers, brothers D. A. and J. N. De Beer. Around 1873 the De Beer brothers sold out to a group of mining syndicates who later merged with Cecil Rhodes’ pumping company to form ‘De Beers Consolidated Mines’.
Today De Beers alone mines about half the world’s annual diamond output. It also controls as much as 80% of global diamond sales through its Central Selling Organization, which purchases and stockpiles diamonds from other suppliers to keep availability low and prices high. De Beers was known to be a major purchaser of conflict diamonds from Angola, Sierra Leone and other African conflict zones.
Through the years, Kimberly lost its relevance in the production of diamonds, but is still the De Beers’ headquarter and the start point of the movement which involved the major diamond companies and was aimed to put an end to the trade of conflict diamonds.