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Blood Diamonds

Just the term blood diamonds brings up horrendous images of people who have been subjected to unthinkable acts forced upon them by their own countrymen. I will use the term, blood diamonds, to refer to diamonds brought to market during the bloody civil war that occurred in Sierra Leone throughout the 90's and that finally came to an end in 2002.

The amount of rough diamonds added onto the market during this period was a relatively small amount in comparison to total world production, somewhere only around one percent. It was however enough to be a significant source funding for the rebels in Sierra Leone along with Charles Taylor in Liberia.

  A bit of background....  

sierra leoneI will simplify the story a bit in order to give some backdrop to what led up to this dark period of the human race. Sierra Leone was a British colony that gained independence in the early 60's. Sierra Leone started off on its independence pretty well, because it had a relatively good infrastructure and it had already been mining diamonds since the 1930's.

In the late 60's, a Prime Minister by the name of Siaka Stevens came into office. He proceeded to run the country into the ground until he and his successor were finally out of office by 1992. It was in the late 80's and early 90's that the anti-government group, the RUF, was formed. For the next 4 years, there was an ineffectual string of corrupt military people running the country. It was during this period that the RUF moved into the diamond producing area of Eastern Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone's diamonds are alluvial in nature.... alluvial diamonds are deposits of diamonds found in lowland areas, in the beds of streams and shallow rivers, but mostly in ancient river beds. alluvial diamonds Diamonds are formed deep in the earth and come to the surface by way of volcanic eruptions and the resulting mountain of cooled lava ends up being eroded away by rain. The diamond rough is washed away and ends up in alluvial deposits.

Most alluvial diamonds are usually found between a few feet to 20 feet below the surface. Relatively little capital and only basic technology (shovels, sieves, and muscles) are required to mine alluvial diamonds. These alluvial diamond mining areas are easily controlled by armed thugs.

In 1995, a group of "gunslingers" from South Africa, called Executive Outcomes, were hired and they cleaned up the problem of the RUF being in the diamond fields. Elections were held in 1996 and a former UN official, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, was elected the new President. Executive Outcomes was asked to leave and in short order, the diamond producing area of Kono was again taken over by the RUF.

  A horrible period in history!  

It was at this point that the RUF began the horrendous act of cutting off people's hands!!!! WHY?.... because they had voted during the recent election! Amputations were designed to terrorize the population and it was very effective. It wasn't however an action directly related to the diamond mining operations. It is the image of this brutal act that has been forever linked to "blood diamonds".

During the following 6 year period, the RUF teamed up with another thug, Charles Taylor, who was pillaging Sierra Leone's next door neighbor, Liberia. Together the 2 groups were interested in power and would kill or terrorize anyone who got in their way, blood diamonds was part of their terror campaign. It finally came to a head, after the RUF had come into Freetown and went on a nightmarish killing spree. The British then sent commandos into Sierra Leone to settle the situation in 2002.

  The people of Sierra Leone are trying to move on but....  

People became aware of the blood diamond situation, they took action, the civil war ended in 2002 and the people of Sierra Leone have moved on and are trying to rebuild their country. An important funding source of their rebuilding efforts come from the money brought in from diamond mining.

There are people in the jewelry business, most notably Martin Rapaport, who are trying to make the situation better for everyone. These diggers do need a better return on their efforts. The people of Africa do need to get a better return on the natural resources that come from their countries... most of all, they do need to have their own governments stop harming them.

  Being politically correct is never a good idea...  

artisanal miningThere are people who are not helping the situation of the Africans that are trying to modernize their countries. Some politically correct people, the "blood diamond Nazis", are railing against the concept of anyone buying or owning a diamond because in their minds they see horrible atrocities every time that they look at any diamond, they see "blood diamonds".

It has become their mission to spread the word by disseminating out dated facts that are not correct and it is these "facts" that do a lot of harm to the millions of people in these emerging countries. These "blood diamond Nazis" will not rest until everyone stops purchasing and wearing diamonds. They are ultimately hurting the Africans that they claim they are trying to help. I ran across one of these "enlightened do gooders" recently in a forum on Google, knol.

There are some suppliers who are taking advantage of everyone's disdain of the concept of blood diamonds. They do this by promoting the fact that it is their products which are the alternative to blood diamonds.... most notably the people who sell diamond simulants (Cubic Zirconia or Moissanite) or who sell "ethical diamonds" from regions other than Africa.

In addition, there are some organizations that still want to keep the idea of blood diamonds alive in people's minds.... they do this mostly for fund raising purposes -
- "you can help put a stop to blood diamonds by sending in your donation now!"
- "Attention webmasters!... make a donation to our effort and you can put this "Stop Blood Diamonds!" logo on your website to show your visitors that you really care about the people of Sierra Leone!")

When you go to these groups' websites... their "up to date" reference material about blood diamonds is from 1998 to 2001 and some of the information even dates back to 1982.

childsoldierIt is unbelievable that some people are using images of Sierra Leone amputees to promote the buying of Canadian diamonds, or promote buying diamond simulants, or used for fund raising purposes. Anytime you see these images be aware that these people are trying to manipulate you at the same time that they are helping only themselves and not helping the people in the photos!

These people, the "not for profit" NGOs and the for profit companies, want to put forth the impression that there is currently a blood bath going on in parts of Africa and this situation can totally be blamed on conflict diamonds.

I have never seen a photo, or a video of, or heard a report about a piece of diamond rough picking up a rifle and killing someone. It was people with an agenda who did all of these horrible things to other people!

  Where do we go from here?  

Things change, people change, situations change.... to promote the idea that Blood Diamonds from Sierra Leone are still actively being put on the market hurts these people that have already gone through so much.

Here is a newsflash for some people who haven't been paying attention since 2002....

Sierra Leone's war is over...

Sierra Leone's "Blood Diamonds" are in the past...

Today, the African people need the rest of the world to look at diamonds as things of beauty and for people to feel good about diamonds! To discriminate against African diamonds in favor of "ethical diamonds" from modern, highly developed non-African countries does not help the people in Africa build hospitals, roads, and schools.

Several years ago, I had the honor of hearing a speech from Erkki Nghimtina, Namibian Minister of Mines and Energy. I referred back to my notes, along with some informational handouts from the speech... and here is the African's current view of the diamond trade-

"Every diamond not purchased is a missed chance for Africa - a missed opportunity to send more children to school, build more clinics and hospitals, and continue the fight against HIV/AIDS. Our challenge is to work together to strengthen the continent's diamond industry so that we can better provide for our people, enabling us all to share a brighter future."

- Important Take Away Points -
Blood Diamonds

#1- The tragedy of Sierra Leone's civil war is over and the chapter is closed on blood diamonds. There are currently no conflicts going on where "blood diamonds" are fueling any type of unbelievable inhumanity as was witnessed in Sierra Leone.

#2- You will be able to buy diamonds with the confidence that you will not be getting any type of blood diamonds.... in fact, when you do buy diamonds you will most likely be helping these developing countries build new roads, hospitals, and schools.

#3- Here is a link to additional information about "conflict diamonds"

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