Ottawa–The Diamond Development Initiative, the nonprofit focused on improving the working conditions and lives of artisanal diamond miners, has launched the Maendeleo Diamond Standards (MDS).
Maendeleo, the Swahili word for development and progress, is a fitting designation for standards that will ensure respect for human rights, for the environment and for community well-being, DDI Executive Director Dorothée Gizenga said.
“Artisanal diamond mining, carried out informally with rudimentary tools, is a risky business in many ways. Historically the people who do the hardest work live in poverty and have been subject to exploitation and violence.
“These standards are an important step in protecting the miners, regulating the sector and producing diamonds that the jewelry industry can be proud to pass along to consumers,” she said.
The DDI said that workers at 14 remote mining sites in Sierra Leone’s diamond-rich Koidu district have been trained on the standards and 13 of the sites have now been certified MDS-compliant based on a third-party audit.
What this means is that diamonds produced at these sites have been mined responsibly and ethically, and the DDI noted that implementing the principles of human rights, health and safety, and environmental responsibility is already improving the conditions for the people who work in these mines.
DDI Board Chair Ian Smillie said the Maendeleo Diamond Standards is the only model that exists in the artisanal diamond sector. And it is noteworthy as an effective complement to the Kimberley Process (KP).
“MDS takes the work of the KP one step further,” Smillie said. “While the KP deals with regulatory issues, the Maendeleo Diamond Standards address the development needs of the artisanal diamond miners and their communities, which is foundational to conflict prevention.”
Based on the results of DDI’s work in Sierra Leone, Ainsley Butler, MDS program director, said the organization intends to roll out the system to other regions, beginning with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “This process is feasible, scalable and replicable,” she said. “This is effective development.”