While in the main research phase of my project, I wanted to learn what were the places in the world whose diamonds should be sought out by consumers, and which should be avoided, even if, in a perfect world, that sort of thing were possible (it’s not). Generally, recommending an entire country be considered on or off-limits is a risky and foolhardy errand, and as I’ve learned, conditions and operations can vary greatly within a country and region. For example, diamonds from Rio Tinto’s mine in Murowa, Zimbabwe have evaded all tinge and drama that have generally accompanied diamonds from Marange. Obviously Marange is an easy entrant in to the latter category and not in the category of “diamonds doing good”, though the American jewelry industry has done a good job at keeping these stones out of their jewelry cases. The quality of diamonds coming out of the DRC is extremely low (and therefore the chances that these stones end up set in jewelry) at $8.84/ct, with the caveat that this depends on KPCS statistics being an accurate representation of production.
But what about Angola? There, the quality of diamonds is generally high at $136/ct (for comparison, in Botswana, the world’s greatest producer of diamonds by value is $156/ct), but equally high is the corruption, yet also the opportunity and the growth. Unfortunately, I’ve had an extremely difficult time getting accurate information out of this country through the few sources in-country that I’ve been able to connect with, but what I have found has only made me more curious. My full thoughts are available here.
Once upon a time…
BICC has an excellent report entitled “Legacy of a resource-fueled war: The role of generals in Angola’s mining sector” detailing the history of diamond mining, and in particular, artisanal diamond mining in the Lundas. This report specifically details the often-intertwined nature between the military and artisanal diamond mining in the country.
Angola is one of the countries against changing the term “conflict diamonds” to encompass all violence, no matter the technicality that the current definition is restricted to: that the perpetrators be rebels (thugs on the government or private payroll are kosher). This seems like a no-brainer to me as well as to the countries where most diamonds are bought (U.S.A and the E.U.), but is a harder sell to the Southern and Western African producer countries.
Rafael Marques de Morais is the go-to man on corruption in Angola, the influence of the first family, and diamonds. His book “Diamanates de Sangue: Corrupcao e Torturo em Angola (Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola)” has gotten him embroiled in a libel and defamation suit against the Angolan generals and diamond mining companies that he accuses in his book of human rights offenses. I’ve wanted to get a hold of this book but cannot find an english translation.
Some interesting headlines regarding benefaction and Angola:
Angola’s Endiama plans to buy gold to make jewellery
Angola’s national diamond company Endiama this year plans to purchase gold to make jewellery from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Mali, the company’s chairman said in Cape Town.
“Value added activities in the diamond sector can have a positive impact on employment and economic diversification,” said the EIU in one of the most recent reports on Angola, while noting that these initiatives are just being launched.
Angola recently resumed diamond cutting and polishing, at a unit in Luanda and is planning to build a second unit in Lobito, Benguela province.
Chairman of the Board
The Chairman of the Kimberley Process stated that the diamonds that were used to feed armed conflicts today are called in Angola “Prosperity and development diamonds.”
Australian mining company Lucapa has been pulling type IIa diamonds out of the ground at the Lulo diamond concession, including an exceptional 131.4ct stone. In fact, I’ve read that the Lucapa operation has the potential to replace the country’s Catoca mine as the country’s largest.
What I, as an amateur observer, can see:
- Current chair of the KP.
- Opposition to changing the definition of “conflict diamonds”.
- One of the most corrupt countries in the world (Transparency International)
- Production is expected to increase dramatically.
- Undisclosed partnerships with shell companies owned by the first family.
- Beneficiation and diversification a major priority for the country.
- Donor to the DDI, has been issuing licenses to artisanal miners.
This is simply an appeal to better information about the diamond production in this country. In my report I concluded that consumers might consider avoiding diamonds from Angola almost entirely because of admitted stigma, corruption and uncertainty, though I must admit I can be swayed to the other side based on better information.