De Beers Expanding GemFair Pilot in Sierra Leone

Mining and Exploration
24/04/2019 15:02

De Beers Group has announced it is expanding its pilot project in Sierra Leone called GemFair, an innovative project to trace and sell ethically-sourced artisanal and small-scale mined (ASM) diamonds. The development of a toolkit that can be used in the field should help to create a secure and transparent route to market, a genuine sore spot for ASM diamonds. The aim of the pilot is to provide ASM diamond miners with access to De Beers is working to give ASM diamond miners access to the group’s distribution channel while seeking to improve ethical standards, working conditions and value for miners within the sector. 

Partnering with the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), GemFair started the pilot with 16 mine sites in Sierra Leone and has expanded in the past six months to include another 38 sites. To incentivise mine owners to work with GemFair, a membership model has been introduced whereby mine sites that meet a strict set of core requirements, aligned with the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, and pass due diligence checks, can join the program and sell diamonds to GemFair. Miners then work with DDI towards achieving in one year a full Maendeleo Diamond Standards (MDS) certification, which includes standards relating to social, environmental and labor risks. Since the pilot launched in April 2018, GemFair has seen significant progress across its operations, opening offices in both Koidu and Freetown.

“Although the sector faces many challenges, we’ve been delighted with how the pilot has gone so far and it has proved its ability to use digital innovation to support responsible business practices and deliver traceability, said Feriel Zerouki, Senior Vice President, International Relations and Ethical Initiatives, De Beers Group. "We believe we have identified opportunities to make it even more impactful and are excited to expand the pilot’s reach to more sites in Sierra Leone. The GemFair model has huge long-term potential to transform the ASM sector by formalizing access to international markets and raising operating and ethical standards across the sector.” While registered miners have no obligation to accept offers to purchase diamonds through the GemFair buying office, they are provided with free training in diamond valuation, so they can make an informed assessment about the value of their diamonds and negotiate the best possible deal.

GemFair has developed a unique digital solution to ensure the traceability of all diamonds registered through the programme. The toolkit contains an app and a dedicated tablet that creates a digital record of each diamond found. The app records GPS locations and the diamond logging process requires the use of tamper-proof QR-coded ‘bag and tag’ equipment. The software works both online and offline so that it can be used in different locations. In due course, the technology will be integrated with Tracr, the industry blockchain solution led by De Beers Group, to prove the provenance and ethical sourcing of a diamond.