Post Tagged with: "Africa"

child mine worker

Gemstone Mining in Africa

child mine worker

Child mine worker working in what some might consider rough conditions. Taken by Institute of Global Labor.

It is commonly known that through the natural process of time, gemstones are made through minerals. They are mined from the earth, with mining taking place in almost every country on the planet. This can range from countries with a high economic status, or even those who are on the lower end of the spectrum. Sometimes countries that struggle with advanced development and the ones that struggle economically are the ones used for the most mining. This is because labor costs are low and there is more availability of people to fill the jobs. Countries that fit under this profile can include many countries in Africa and sometimes South America as well. African nations like Mauritania and Sudan, Tanzania now is emerging as the latest center for the exploitation of child labor.

Clear stones are most commonly mined for in Africa because of the mineral composition that is found deep in the mines. Over time, even more gemstones are gradually forming, which leads to a continuous process of searching for and locating new mining areas. Again, this is another reason jobs are often available in the mining industry. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, and this is usually done in harsh conditions. In Africa, the climate can generally be unforgiving. Hot, dry conditions make for tough work in this part of the world. The gemstone industry can be straining on the body, both physically and mentally.

clear gemstones

Some of the clear gemstones you might find that come from Africa. Taken by Mauro Cateb.

This industry, despite all of these hard conditions, is still very desirable for two main reasons. One of these reasons is the high price people are willing to pay for these beautiful rocks that are formed deep in the earth. The beauty of these gemstones have captivated the eye of society’s wealthiest people. The money they are willing to contribute to the finding of these gems is enough to keep people working for more. The other reason is the rarity of the gems. Since there aren’t many that exist around Africa and other places, they are always being scoured. Since they take so much time to locate and form, it can become very rare to locate a new mining site. The mining need a serious and  good education of Geology.

There is quite a bit of competition in the mining industry, since people are always looking for the “lottery winning” mine site. This can drive people to extremes in search of the money pit that can be sitting in the rock. Because there is such high competition for people to find the gemstones, unsafe work conditions are often experienced. Sometimes people are in a rush when there is a potential for new gems. Other times they are trying to beat their competition to a new site, and rely on unsafe practices in order to meet their time crunch situation. The work conditions are becoming a large issue on the global scale, and drawing attention to the gemstone mining scene taking place in African countries. The movie Blood Diamond made the situation much more aware on the public level. This is great for those who are putting themselves in harm’s way to retrieve the gems. There is potential now for improved conditions and for future improvements to be made.

The mining industry has been an interesting topic for several years. There are may controversial topics that stem from the situation, and this makes for many debates. The beautiful result in the shiny gemstone comes from hours of labor and struggle, only to sit in the hands of the rich and wealthy people of the world. There are some changes in the system, but there are future changes that still need to be addressed.


The Progress Against Blood Diamonds


Image is courtesy of: qthomasbower.

Many experts have claimed that the illegal mining and distribution of diamonds in Africa has been funding violent conflicts (typically with guerrilla warfare and various governments’ military getting involved) throughout Africa, with sums totaling into the billions of dollars (USA standard).  In fact, Al Qaeda, one of this world’s most notorious and violent terrorist organizations, is known to have made millions of dollars from the sale of diamonds mined illegally by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone.  The motivation for many of the warlords behind the violence against the African governments is primarily for control over the region’s extremely profitable diamond industry.  The above image is that of a diamond originating in Africa, although it is not fair to say that all diamonds mined from Africa are the result of bloodshed, many people find themselves avoiding the purchase of them just to be safe as a means of boycotting the conflicts and bringing down the value of such diamonds, with the objective being to render the operations no longer profitable and therefore worthless to continue.  Sometimes nonviolent and passive resistance is far more efficient than deadly force. While quartz is a great deal more common to be found throughout the Earth than a diamond.

But now let’s bring our focus back to Sierra Leone, the place of origin for the Revolutionary United Front, which has threatened, mutilated, or killed many people that live around or have access to diamond mining operations, with the objective being control and profit of these operations.  The group went about marauding and carving a swath around the nation, taking control of as many diamond mining operations as they possibly could.  The recent statistics have stated that tens of thousands of people have been mutilated, nearly a hundred thousand have been killed and more than two million people have had to flee the country entirely.


Image is courtesy of: Cliff.

Throughout the 1990’s the global community of human rights organizations began publicizing these events of genocide to the front of many news headlines.  The creation of a program as a joint venture between the diamond industry and the United Nations was formed, and titled Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KCPS).  Regulation of the trade and sale of diamonds is the key focus of the KCPS, essentially trying to keep all the violence over these valuable jewels to a minimum, if not to dissolve them all entirely.  There are dozens of nations that are involved with KCPS and it is still an active program currently, with all the nations involved doing their utmost to have any shipments containing diamonds to have very specific combinations of numbers and certifications from governments that then guarantee that the goods within the container do not have any illicit diamonds.

Clearly there has been progress, but more could be done to dismantle these criminal organizations and guarantee the safety of the innocent people that pay the price for their presence.  Feel free to check out the following link for more information on mining in Africa.