Diamonds. The epitome of beauty and the ultimate representation of destruction and pain. A highly popular item thats glamorized and used as a means of displaying an image of wealth and opulence and has been made a cultural imperative for developed countries. This commodity poses a plethora of issues economically, socially, morally, and environmentally. In order for diamonds to be discovered, traded, and sold, an abundance of smuggling, violence, and big business ignorance and greed is required. Even with the knowledge of all of these negatives, American consumers still choose to remain ignorant and purchase this product without hesitation.
A conflict diamond is any diamond that is unsustainable, and has a negative impact on the environment, society, or economy. According to worlds top imports, America holds the top position for global purchases of diamonds. With a whopping $23.2 billion, we hold 19.8% of the words total diamond imports. India comes close second with $21 billion and Hong Kong holds third with billion.
Within the United States Dallas Texas spends the most per diamond (because everything is bigger in Texas) and San Francisco comes second where people spend an average of $9,663. In 2014, diamond sales in America hit 78.08 billion. This confirms that Americans are no stranger to this luxurious commodity.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, most of the known natural diamond reserves are located in Congo, Botswana, Australia, and South Africa. Due to inadequate planning and regulation, environmental destruction has been a result from irresponsible mining for diamonds throughout Africa. Careless diamond mining has severely affected a number of areas within Africa, causing soil erosion, deforestation, forced relocation, redirecting of natural waters, and extinction of native plants.
Angolas diamond industry specifically has been negligent to protecting rivers and streams from exploitation. Diamond miners have re-routed rivers and constructed dams to expose riverbeds for mining, with disastrous effects on fish and wildlife. Mining for diamonds has had a large impact of environmental sustainability throughout South Africa. Open pit mines create large deep pits which grow wider with time, and catch rainfall which can increase up to 20 meters with heavy rain.
Diamond mines have increasingly polluted the rivers due to their acid drainage total. And indirect impact of mining has been a population increase due to the growing pit sizes, therefor commercial farming follows and leads to a degradation in soil quality and soil erosions in many areas. Not to mention all of the useless excess rock, soil, and sand produced after creating these massive pits that can accumulate over time. Mining in areas of Angola, there was records of massive deforestation with colossal effects on the environment, forcing the local population to relocate. Deforestation is a direct impact of mining along with relocation. Irresponsible mining as seen in Angola, theyve had to reroute rivers and create dams to expose riverbeds directly hurting the wildlife that lives within those rivers or uses the rivers as a source for food and water.
When the pits become abandoned, they get filled with stagnant water and become infested with mosquitoes with malaria and other harmful diseases. The issue at hand, are these big corporations leaving the land worse off than they were before. With mining the most important word is sustainability. Plant species can be affected from these areas not being rehabilitated, for instance within South Africa a number of native plants may be threatened to be extinct due to the irresponsible actions of the De Beers diamond company. Because diamond mining is s politicized, Environmental agencies have trouble enforcing regulations and laws. Companies begin mining before environmental impact studies have been done. Companies attempt to avoid fulfilling certain regulations by going to areas where rules and regulations arent followed strictly.
In extreme cases, diamond mining can even cause ecosystems to collapse. Leaving pits abandoned, wildlife disappears, soil erodes, lands that were once suitable for farming become desolate, and the areas become home to water-borne diseases and dangerous disease spreading insects. Another issue at hand is the erosion that occurs to diamond bearing pipes. When weathering occurs, these pipes erode and materials wash downhill and downstream to riverbeds and along ocean shores. Rivers are most heavily affected by mining. For instance in suburbs in Mutare, Zinc, Lead, Arsenic, and Mercury are being polluted into the Sakubya River. Rivers also become muddy due to diamond mining activities, diminishing the waters quality. Local communities are unaware of their polluted waters and also have very little knowledge to the dangers. These local communities are limited in their options due to poverty and this poses huge health risks. The government within Marange has created restriction due to livestock dying because of the suspected poisoned rivers, skin rashes after water contact.
The unfortunate environmental impact of diamonds can be harmful to our environmental if not done thoughtfully and thoroughly. Mineral processing, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites, pollution, extinction of native plants, livestock harm etc. These are all consequences that affect the local community, the ecosystem, and our earth. With sustainable mining and a proper plan for the future, all of these negative outcomes can be avoided.
The social impacts are seen through the forced relocations due to diamond mining. Its much deeper than having to find a new home but having to leave the land your identity, culture, and very being is tied to. This can be destabilizing as a community, and can also create unrest between project developers, the miners, and the community. The aftereffect of this is large quantities of people immigrating to local territories and having to assimilate and build a new life with no compensation.
Another issue at hand is the great discrepancy between the laborers, the middlemen and the company heads. The resources themselves originate from places such as Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, the Congo, etc, however they still remain in poverty, struggling to survive and feed their families. There have been reports of miners who have attempted to strike and are continuously gunned down until they stop. The same company that doesnt pay workers livable incomes are the same companies that boast about being philanthropic, and giving. See the irony?
Not surprising enough these companies use immoral practices that exploit workers, children, and communities. These labors that break their back and spend countless hours on their hands and knees earn less than a dollar a day, barely making enough to survive. There are incidents of abuse, deaths, child labor, and corrupt leaders that threaten and force workers to work strenuous hours for very little pay. These same workers that pan and dig for the diamonds and are responsible for billion dollar item, are making below the poverty line unlivable wages. As a result, impoverished communities receive less access to imperatives like less education, healthcare, clean water, and they see an increase of infant mortality, hunger, and violence.
How is this done? All these regulations the companies are supposed to be abiding by are rarely enforced and are unregulated subjecting their workers to unjust treatment. The work not only is extremely underpaid, its also immensely unsafe. This type of specialty work has no proper training and without the correct tools and equipment, can be lethal. Not to mention the risk of all other earthly dangers such as landslides and mine collapse. As mentioned before, child labor is heavily seen in mining. A survey found that in Angola, 46% of the workers were between the ages of five and sixteen. Children can be used for cheap labor as well as used for their tiny stature to fit into tiny crevices adults cant squeeze in to. They also are more susceptible to injury and accidents and work longer days, more days a week.
The inequalities between the individual and the diamond corporations are huge. The diamonds are sold five times more than its original value. The ones that benefit the most are the ones that are in the highest power positions. The comparisons between the diamond industry vs. the mining companies represents the disregard and contempt for the workers and how they manipulate and control their means of income simply because their government allows for them to do so.
Even more corrupt is the fact that these governments earn significant amount of revenue from the diamond industries through taxes and agreements however they fail to put the money back into the community. Health care, public amenities, education funding, construction, none of these issues are acknowledged by the government. If they were to properly place the money into the community, they could actually see productivity and economic development. Basic economy teaches that combating poverty can help a community thrive. Educating women and kids, creating jobs, and giving hope for a better life. It is my belief that the government holds a social obligation to keep its communities best interest in mind when making decisions so it can play a critical role in using its funds properly and creating a successful environment.
The health hazards of diamond mining are overwhelming. The workers are being exposed to the poisonous toxins released from the procedure and arent given the appropriate attire to protect themselves. Inhaling toxic dust called silica can be lethal and can subject someone to silicosis disease. According to Huffington post, Silicosis is a debilitating disease that attacks the lungs, causes chronic airflow obstruction, cyanosis and often precipitates Tuberculosis. Currently, South Africa has the highest infection rate of Tuberculosis in the world. Mining workers are exploited, subjected to horrendous work environments, unfair pay, unfair hours, and reap zero benefits from their lands natural resources. Corrupt government employees, middle men, and the top company heads are all responsible for this negligence and immoral mistreatment.
The question must be posed, how do I consciously and ethically purchase diamonds without exploiting workers, supporting war, disease, corruption, and poverty? Know where your diamond is being sources from and what kind of mining techniques they use. For instance, informal alluvial mining is back breaking work for miners that get paid extremely low wages in dangerous settings. This form of mining is usually unregulated, is devastating to the environment, and subjects its workers to inhumane treatment. Also ensure you arent receiving misleading information. Fact check and analyze the information and check the companys ethics and values.
There are plenty of outside options such as check out Russian or Canadian diamond companies. Look into the companys ethics and environmental sustainability. Research as much information as you can and fact check. Lab created diamonds is also an option. They are created in a lab and have little to none environmental consequences. Recycled rings is always an option as well, many companies are turning towards that alternative. Option four is to directly buy from the people that produce the diamonds.
American consumerism is the base of this subject. Majority of what weve been taught in class is how colonialist exploit periphery states, take their resources by extracting their raw materials, grossly underpay the workers, and escape necessary workers rights. The people of the periphery states are the ones who are subject to this unsustainable labor force that in turn creates social unrest and economic disarray. Capitol greed drives such exploitation and at the cost of a mere cultural luxury.
The intricacies of the diamond trade goes far deeper than initially assumed. Its a multifaceted system, involving wildlife, the environment, politics, economy, the community, and much more. Being a conscious consumer means taking charge of the money we spend and putting a stop to corrupt politicians, powerful corporations, and greedy middlemen that strip the working class of their human rights. As I finish this paper, I think to myself, so whats next? I think enlightenment is the answer. Spread my knowledge to other conscious consumers and try and combat these social and political infrastructures.