APRIL 18, 2019
Next week, starting on April 23, more than one thousand delegates will gather in Paris for an annually-held event that is fast becoming one of the most well-attended conferences in the mining sector. For the 13th time, the OECD Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains is taking place, and the World Diamond Council (WDC) will be an active participant.
The presence in the French capital of so many mining-industry representatives provides an ideal opportunity for associated side events. One of these will be a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee overseeing the review and reform of the Kimberley Process (KP). It too is an event that is high on the WDC’s agenda.
For the first few years the OECD forum was a low-key conference, focusing primarily on 3TG (meaning tin, tungsten, tantalum, as well as gold) being mined in the Great Lakes region of Africa, which in 2010 were targeted by the Dodd Frank Act, passed by the U.S. Congress. At the urging of African governments and civil society groups in the area, which had seen the output of these minerals plummet after the American legislation was passed, with devastating effect on communities dependent on artisanal and small-scale mining, the OECD released the first edition of its five-step due diligence framework guidance. It was designed to mitigate the risk involved in importing minerals from high-risk areas. That document has since been updated twice.
As the Paris forum grew, OECD’s due diligence guidance for minerals from high-risk areas evolved into an industry standard. Today it is closely associated with a range of associated systems and statutes, among them the new conflict minerals legislation in the European Union.
It is also extending beyond 3TG, with the OECD making it clear that the five-stage system will become applicable across the entire mineral spectrum, including diamonds. No surprise then that WDC has been liaising with the organization for some time already.
This year, during the afternoon of April 24, we will be participating in a deep dive session, which will take stock of recent standard-making developments in upstream and downstream diamond supply chains, and more specifically look at the RJC’s revised Code of Practices and the WDC’s new System of Warranties (SoWs) Guidelines.
While somewhat narrower in focus than that of the OECD’s full due diligence guidance, it is our strong contention that the SoWs are a crucial component for implementing the OECD system in the diamond supply chain, irrespective of the size or nature of the company involved. To no small degree this is because the SoWs recognize that “conflict diamonds” include more than just goods traded to finance civil war, but also comprise diamonds associated with other instances of grave and systemic violence, including acts carried out by public and private security forces in gross violation of human and labor rights, or serving the interests of corrupt public servants. We strongly believe that by eliminating such systemic violence, the formalization of artisanal miners will be encouraged, resulting in improved working conditions, better revenues at the grass-roots level, sustainable economic opportunities and improved environmental management.
It is our fervent hope that the broader understanding of the term “conflict diamonds” contained in the SoWs will come to be accepted by the Kimberley Process, and we plan to advocate this position during the meetings of the KP Ad Hoc Committee on Reform and Review on April 25 and 26. We are also lobbying for a strengthening of the standards and modalities currently in place within the KP, like the peer review mechanisms, better data gathering and the establishment of a permanent KP Secretariat.
All this should be achieved within the content of the KP’s proven tripartite structure, involving government, industry and civil society. Reform cannot be imposed. It should be introduced in a spirit of cooperation and fairness, with a consistent commitment to strive for better.
As the participation of so many artisanal miners at the OECD forum underscores, it is ultimately people and their well-being that are the focus of our deliberations. By acting transparently and adhering to the rule of law, the interests of both business and society are served. The WDC will remain a fully committed partner in all these forums.
It would be remiss of me to write about Paris and not mention the devastating loss that has just been suffered by the city, the people of France and the world in the fire at the Notre Dame cathedral. We in the diamond and jewelry industries are acutely aware of significance of history, artistry and symbolic beauty. All of these were victims on the evening of April 15. But the human spirit reigns supreme. Like a phoenix, Notre Dame will once again rise from the ashes.
This blog is the first of what will be a regular means of communication by WDC. We look forward to using such media to make our voice heard across the industry. We welcome your comments and participation.
In conclusion, this weekend some of our members will be celebrating Easter, and others the start of the Passover week. Those who are Russian Orthodox will be celebrating Easter a week later. We wish them all a healthy and happy holiday.