When the Marange Diamond Fields in Western Zimbabwe began their operations in 2006, they were touted as one of the richest sources of alluvial diamond deposits in the world. Zimbabweans rejoiced at what could be the answer to lifting their long-suffering population out of poverty.
More than a decade later, Western Zimbabwe is still suffering from some of the worst malnutrition, poverty and drought in the world - notably, in the areas surrounding the Marange Diamond Fields despite a flurry of promises by diamond producers. The fields, meanwhile, have produced nearly 13% of the world’s underground rough diamond supply. This translates into billions of dollars.
“We are living close to these diamond mines, yet we are starving," says 65 year old Shylet Mutsago who lives near the fields. “Just a few diamond stones could help change our lives, but no one seems to care,” she told Scientific American.
Credit: AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi
The Marange Diamond Fields has a dark and violent history that includes accusations of bribery, theft, rape, torture and environmental destruction. Five of the companies who own the mines have a military or personal connection to the recently deposed President Robert Mugabe.
A report by Partnership Africa Canada (now known as IMPACT) states that in 2012 about $2 billion in diamond revenue were stolen by Zimbabwe’s political elite. Ongoing human rights violations - including torture and rape camps - have been reported by both NPR and BBC from 2010 onwards. In 2012, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association and villagers living along the Save River sued three Marange mining companies for poisoning their water sources. The list goes on and on.
Unfortunately, the Marange Fields is only one (reported) example in the opaque world of diamond mining. Most diamond retailers these days promise “responsible sourcing.” They make passionate pledges via their websites and other media that their businesses help the communities where their diamonds come from. These claims are unofficial, unsubstantiated and rarely overseen by third party observers. There are too many pieces to the diamond supply chain at this point in time for any retailer to claim transparency. It is, at its core, a purposefully shrouded process.
There is only one way to buy diamonds without harming people and communities - aboveground diamonds from American foundries.