During a kickoff meeting that took place in Kananga, in the DRC’s Kasai region last week, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), together with the DRC’s Ministry of Mining and its subdivisions SAEMAPE and CEEC, NGO DDI@RESOLVE and tech company Everledger initiated OrigemA, a pilot project that aims to set up a fully transparent, digitally enabled mine-to-market program for Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) cooperatives in the DRC. The purpose of the OrigemA pilot is to develop a blueprint that focuses on transparency, sustainability and fair trade, which over time can be scaled up, within the DRC but also in other countries.
The DRC is the largest producer of artisanal mined diamonds in the world, accounting for nearly 70% of global ASM production, which in turn constitutes an estimated 15 to 20% of the total diamond production in the world. Because of its largely informal character, this segment of the diamond mining industry is particularly vulnerable to human rights violations, poor working conditions, corruption and opaque or illicit trade. In November last year in Antwerp, the AWDC and the DRC Ministry of Mines, SAEMAPE and CEEC signed an MoU that would allow to initiate the project. Establishing a fully transparent value chain aligns with the ambitions of reforming the diamond industry, set out by DRC President Tshisekedi, and his Minister of Mining, Mrs Kalambayi. “The Congolese Ministry of Mining, the mining land registry (Cadastre Minier), SAEMAPE and the CEEC, will work with the other partners to create a legal and fiscal framework that allows efficient formalization, combatting corruption, eradicating logistical hurdles, and increasing transparency in financial and fiscal flows.”, Minister Kalambayi commented.
After visiting various ASM operations in the past months, DDI@RESOLVE together with SAEMAPE selected six cooperatives in various stages of formalization, to become part of the pilot program. DDI@RESOLVE, who created the first-ever set of standards for ethical artisanal diamond production and supply chain security, known as the Maendeleo Diamond Standards (MDS), will oversee the project on the ground, including the training, auditing, and certification of the cooperatives in line with MDS and OECD Due Diligence standards. Stephen d’Esposito, CEO of NGO DDI@RESOLVE; “Our key mission aligns perfectly with this project; to transform ambitious ideas into real benefits for people, communities, and ecosystems. Through many years of working in DRC’s artisanal diamond mining industry we have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge and expertise. Further supported by the RESOLVE structure, we bring collaborative expertise and a solutions-focused mindset to the table.”
Creating a blueprint for fair traded diamonds doesn’t stop at formalizing and certifying artisanal and small-scale mining operations. OrigemA has the ambition to create the first digitally and blockchain supported value chain for ASM productions. “Our role in this project is to prove that the ASM industry doesn’t have to be excluded from the advantages of technology to significantly increase transparency in the journey of a diamond from mine to market, not only in terms of generating fair prices, but also by providing a platform that can demonstrate the positive impact these diamonds bring about.”, Leanne Kemp CEO of Everledger adds. The company’s core activity is to provide technology solutions to increase transparency in global supply chains, with in-depth experience in the diamond market but also a strong focus on critical minerals and in other industries such as luxury goods, apparel, etc.
The week-long kick-off meeting, which was attended by the Head of Cabinet of the Ministry of Mining, Mr Michel Kibonge Nyekuma, the General Director of SAEMAPE, Mr Jean-Paul Kapongo Kadiobo, the General Director of the CEEC, Mr Freddy Muamba Kanyinku, Everledger CEO Leanne Kemp, AWDC Head of Industry Relations Karen Rentmeesters and representatives of all six cooperatives, included an official launch as well as in-depth information sessions and the distribution of mining gear to the pilot’s cooperatives. Upon their return to Kinshasa, AWDC and Everledger, together with the CEEC and SAEMAPE also met with Mining Minister Kalambayi for a short debrief and further discussions.
“We believe it is essential to have all partners, including government and the cooperatives themselves, involved at the ground level. This bottom-up, collaborative approach ensures that we create a model that considers the realities of artisanal, small-scale mining in remote regions and that the resulting blueprint can be scaled up and replicated in the field. That is why kicking off this pilot in Kasai, Kananga, meeting face-to-face with the cooperatives and local communities was so important.”, says Karen Rentmeesters, Head of Industry Relations at the AWDC.
In the initial stage, OrigemA is funded by contributions from the AWDC but the group of partners hopes to secure additional financing through public funding, and also wants to explore opportunities for commercial partnerships as the project progresses.