De Beers Testifies at Congress Hearing on Conflict Diamonds

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(Rapapport…May 16, 2000) De Beers has submitted a written testimony to the House Committee on International Relations Africa Subcommittee’s hearing on “Conflict Diamonds.” In the testimony, De Beers briefly outlined the history of the industry and the company, listing its current control of the industry at 65 percent of world production. De Beers emphasized the role that diamond mining plays in the stability and growth of developing countries like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. The company listed its own contributions to welfare and community projects, having spent $90 million on such projects from 1993 to 1999.

On the question of conflict diamonds, De Beers stated that it is “ deeply concerned about anything that could damage the image of a diamond as a symbol of love, beauty and purity.” De Beers defines “conflict diamonds” as “diamonds mined or stolen by rebels who are in opposition to the legitimate government of a country.” While outlining the unilateral action it has taken around this issue, De Beers takes issue with “the grossly inflated figures used to describe the dimensions of the problem by some non-governmental organizations.” According to De Beers, only 3.7 percent of world diamond production can be described as being derived from conflict areas, primarily, Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

De Beers outlined problems with the Conflict Diamonds Campaign: Inaccurate and unsubstantiated estimates of the percentage of conflict diamonds on the market; negative effect on legitimate trade, confusion over the history of the Angolan conflict and the suggestions for recognition and certification. Regarding the last issue, De Beers stated that “ the pursuit of this illusory solution detracts focus from the many practical measures which can be taken to reduce or eliminate trade in rough diamonds from conflict areas.”

De Beers suggested a number of possible solutions to the problem and offered to assist in these areas.

* Increase the cost of getting caught dealing in conflict diamonds.

* Increase government support with new laws.

* Create reference libraries of local alluvial productions.

* Publish those regions that are “out of bounds.”

* Tighten the financial restraints on “conflict diamond” dealing via diamond banks.

* Training staff to recognize diamonds deriving from conflict areas.

* Improve diamond recognition as much as possible.

* Make the trade aware of volumes by insisting on the publishing of import/export statistics.

* Distinguish between “origin” and provenance.

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