Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 April 2019:
Yesterday, the De Beers Group announced that, GemFair, a pilot programme developed by the company which aims to create a secure and transparent route to market for ethically sourced artisanal and small-scale mined (ASM) diamonds, is scaling up its operations in Sierra Leone to give more miners the opportunity to benefit from the opportunities the programme offers.
According to De Beers, “the GemFair pilot provides ASM diamond miners with access to De Beers Group’s industry leading distribution channel, while seeking to improve ethical standards, working conditions and value for miners within the sector.”
GemFair, the company says, has partnered with the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), an NGO that has been instrumental in helping to formalise the diamond ASM sector in Africa.
Following the launch of the pilot, where GemFair worked with 16 mine sites in Sierra Leone, the pilot has been extended in the past six months to work with a further 38 sites and widen its impact.
To incentivise mine owners to work with GemFair, a membership model has been introduced, says De Beers. This will allow mine sites that meet a strict set of core requirements, aligned with the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, and pass due diligence checks, to join the programme and sell diamonds to GemFair. Miners can then work with DDI towards achieving full Maendeleo Diamond Standards™ (MDS) certification, within a one-year timeframe.
De Beers also says that, since the pilot was launched in April 2018, GemFair has seen significant progress across its operations, opening offices in both Koidu and Freetown, and developing a set of publicly available ASM standards to ensure a best practice approach for responsible sourcing.
The GemFair standards complement the Maendeleo Diamond Standards, which include standards relating to social, environmental and labour risks within the sector.
Feriel Zerouki, Senior Vice President, International Relations and Ethical Initiatives, De Beers Group, said: “Although the sector faces many challenges, we’ve been delighted with how the pilot has gone so far and it has proved its ability to use digital innovation to support responsible business practices and deliver traceability.
“ We believe we have identified opportunities to make it even more impactful and are excited to expand the pilot’s reach to more sites in Sierra Leone. The GemFair model has huge long-term potential to transform the ASM sector by formalising access to international markets and raising operating and ethical standards across the sector.”
GemFair has developed a unique digital solution to ensure the traceability of all diamonds registered through the programme. The toolkit contains an app and dedicated tablet that creates a digital record of each diamond found.
The app records GPS locations and the diamond logging process requires the use of tamper proof QR-coded ‘bag and tag’ equipment. Software works both online and offline so that it can be used in different locations. In due course, the technology will be integrated with Tracr™, the industry blockchain solution led by De Beers Group, to prove the provenance and ethical sourcing of a diamond.
Educating miners on diamond valuation is another component of the GemFair pilot. While registered miners have no obligation to accept offers to purchase diamonds through the GemFair buying office, they are provided with free training in diamond valuation, so they can make an informed assessment about the value of their diamonds and negotiate the best possible deal.
Tutorials on diamond valuation can also be accessed by miners via the app, and equipment included in the toolkit is provided to assist miners in the valuation of their diamonds. T
he digital solution also helps GemFair to manage the membership and certification of each site and provides GemFair buyers with the assurance that diamonds offered for purchase are from registered sites.
Last week, Rappaport – a global diamond merchant, presented a strategy to the Bio led government in Sierra Leone that could transform the lives of small scale and artisanal diamond miners and their communities, by enabling them to sell their diamonds directly to the government with greater returns to local mining communities to help finance economic and social development.