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Natural Diamonds

Natural diamonds have become more than just precious heirlooms - they’re symbols of a deep and abiding positive relationship between diamond mines and their local communities.

Forever and For Good How diamond mines impact local communitiesCredit: De Beers Group
Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 00:42

What is a diamond worth? The answer, when you ask somebody who owns a natural diamond, will usually be emotional rather than monetary. Natural diamonds carry a feeling of resilience and authenticity. They’re cherished heirlooms, passed down from beloved ancestors. They’re preferred for their immense worth and emotional value. And beyond the glamour and luxury lies the positive impact diamond mines have on communities around them.

For example, the members of the Natural Diamond Council (NDC), an alliance of natural diamond companies, took the pledge to align with the UN’s sustainable development goals - which aim to improve health and education, preserve the environment, and tackle climate change. And that’s only the start.

Planning for community development even before the mine opens

Natural diamond companies begin to work with local governments way before they even open the mine. The plans drawn up have goals such as resource development, conserving biodiversity and safety of the surrounding land and indigenous communities. 

By forming symbiotic relationships with local governments, the mines put into action initiatives that accelerate the economic status and educational levels of the communities that surround the mine and the local people who work in the mine.

At the Argyle mine, for example, a lucrative project has been put in motion that allows the traditional residents of the land to collect valuable seeds from local plants around the mine, then clean, process, package, and store them for sale. 

Mines also pay their employees 66% higher than the national average salary and put worker-safety first. They practice environmental stewardship, as Trucost found through their Total Clarity Report, by protecting 3 times the land they use for mining, recycling 83% of water they use, and emitting 69% less carbon emissions than lab-made diamonds.

Putting the local people first

Diamond mines are usually found in some of the most remote and inhospitable areas in the world. This is why natural diamond companies benefit from employing local people; they have essential traditional knowledge of the land. 

In return, the mines support local businesses and boost local economies. For instance, Just Ginger, a soft drinks brand, is a successful startup run by two young women from the mining community of Botswana. They were part of the De Beers Group Go To Market program, that trains budding entrepreneurs from mining communities in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana, in partnership with Stanford Graduate Business School.

Credit: Dominion Diamond Mines

The De Beers Group has even won awards for their socially responsible strategies and commitment to sustainability. They were awarded the Sustainability Initiative of the Year Award, in recognition of their Moving Giants programme, through which they are translocating 200 elephants from the reserve in South Africa, to a new home at Zinave National Park in Mozambique. And were awarded two safety awards for their years-long commitment to safeguarding their workforce from injury.

Using education and conservation to grow communities

Diamond mines work closely with indeginous communities and local governments to preserve the essential heritage of the land they operate in. These agreements and practices serve to conserve the culture and tradition of these communities and offer maximised education, health and social benefits.

Credit: Lucara Diamond

Educational benefits, particularly, are a big part of how diamond companies give back, like Debswana - a leading diamond producer in Botswana - that runs primary schools in mining communities, and the De Beers STEM scholarships for girls and women. It’s clear that by educating the local women and marginalised peoples, the diamond industry helps local communities grow in knowledge and skill from generation to generation.

Through these strategies, a delicate balance of ecosystems is maintained. Local people are given education and mentorship, and the opportunity to participate in wage labour, while also continuing their traditional practices undeterred. Indigenous culture is conserved, while local economies grow from strength to strength. The natural diamond continues to carry its qualities of resilience, strength and lasting value, and diamond mines continue to echo the same in their operations.