Current concerns with the Kimberley Process

Written by Simon Gibbons on 10 December 2011

The recent resignation by Global Witness from discussions on the advancement of the Kimberley Process has once again questioned the validity of the Kimberley Process (KP) as an effective means of providing consumers with reassurances about where their diamonds come from. This followed the recent announcement at the Kimberley Process Plenary meeting in Kinshasa that agreement had been reached on the export of diamonds from the Marange region of Zimbabwe from two mines operated by Mbada and Marange Resources which have recently received KP certification.

Controversially an organisation which is subject to EU Restrictive Measures, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), has a substantial stake in both Mbada and Marange Resources. The EU Restrictive Measures does not just cover directly dealing with the ZMDC, but also includes indirect or third party dealing. This essentially means that whilst the mines operated by Mbada and Marange Resources are KP compliant and certified, businesses in the EU are subject to EU local law and therefore should not deal in these diamonds because the ZMDC could or will receive financial benefit.

The KP has been and is coming under justifiably serious criticism, however these are complex issues and it is important to remember that prior to its introduction there was nothing else. Clearly there are a multitude of challenges when you are trying to provide a system on an international scale and getting consensus is always going to be a challenge. It is clearly imperfect, but in the absence of any real alternative, currently, we believe it is better than nothing at all.

However, reform of the KP is an imperative; as providing provenance for diamonds, not just in the present, but in the future is vital for the credibility of the system and consumer confidence. For example China appears to be buying up substantial quantities of diamonds from Zimbabwe, which begs the question of how these will enter the supply chain and whether businesses that buy in the Far East can be sure that they are not buying finished products with diamonds that have circumvented the KP system or compliance with other legal restrictions. We would also like to see greater transparency in the role of the World Diamond Council and its dealings with particularly difficult countries, including an explanation on how decisions are made that the consumer can reasonably understand.

Having recently been through a rigorous audit for our RJC Certification, we have come to understand the importance of this independent assessment and how correct the RJC is to ensure it does not assess its own standards, instead, independent auditors test the application of the RJC standards in the workplace, thus ensuring that there is no conflict of interest. It is interesting to consider whether independent monitoring and reporting would dramatically improve the KP.

It is unlikely that there will ever be a system that is completely watertight, for example, something like 95% of diamonds that are mined are 0.05ct or smaller making it very difficult to determine where every small diamond has come from and/or to stop the unscrupulous from adding quantities of illicit diamonds to those with an ethical provenance. It is also important that the industry does more to improve consumer confidence by providing more open and basic information on ethics. Organisations like the British Jewellery Association and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) are working on initiatives to improve the chain of custody and industry transparency and in 2012; hopefully, these will start to make a difference.

Our diamond suppliers have been contacted to ensure that we are not being supplied with any diamonds from Mbada and Marange Resources. We can therefore assure our customers that we are taking all reasonable steps to ensure that diamonds that are subject to trade restrictions are not being supplied to us and that our diamond suppliers provide us with conflict free diamonds.