The artisanal and small-scale diamond mining (ASDM) sector accounts for 20% of the world’s diamond production. The rough diamond industry is worth approximately 14 billion dollars. For the ASDM sector that could amount to approximately 2.8 billion dollars’ worth of resources.
However, because the ASDM sector is primarily situated in the poorer regions of the globe, mainly Africa and Latin America, it falls into the ‘informal economy’ and struggles with a lack of regulations and enforcement. This makes the laborers more susceptible to illegal practices and human rights abuse, including, but not limited to, the exploitation of workers – the majority of these being the miners and diggers, and smuggling.
The diggers are reliant on the miners for an income, the miners on their supporters/brokers, the supporters/brokers on the exporters – and so it evolves, as it does in many sectors of industry. The exploitation is facilitated by the ignorance of the workers at the start of the supply chain. Based on our first-hand conversations with artisanal diamond miners/diggers in Liberia, it is clear that most of them do not have any understanding of what diamonds are used for, what the diamond supply chain is or how the value of diamonds is determined around the world. Without the essential knowledge about the value of the diamonds that they are working so hard to extract, the miners and diggers are not in a position to argue if offered an unfair price.
According to the survey we conducted in 17 mining communities in January 2021 under the project “Maintaining Resilience of Artisanal Diamond Mining Communities in Liberia” funded by the Extractives Global Programmatic Support (EGPS) at the World Bank, the price of a rough diamond for a miner has dropped by 63% on average since COVID-19. Miners answered that they received USD300 on average for a carat of rough diamond before COVID-19, and received USD 110 on average at the time of the survey.
Whilst on the ground, we also learned that that the miners/diggers are aware that they are being exploited. This needs to be rectified. Learning how to establish the value of rough diamonds is critical to empower these miners/diggers so they can negotiate the price with their buyers and help alleviate the negative impacts brought by COVID-19 as well as attain more lucrative transactions for future sales of their rough diamonds. The most common request we have received from the Liberian ASDM cooperatives we have helped establish and the miners and diggers in other mining communities is for training on valuing their diamonds.
In this context, we formulated this project “Basic Training on Rough Diamond Grading and Valuation in Liberia.” EGPS has provided the funds for the project, International Gemological Institute (IGI) has provided its technical expertise, the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A) and Tokyo Pearl Co., Ltd. has provided financial support to provide tool kits to all the participating communities.
Empowerment Works, Inc. and Diamonds for Peace are implementing this project to educate the artisanal diamond mining communities in Liberia on the basics of rough diamond grading. Through helping them understand how to establish the grade of a rough diamond and, in turn, its potential value, the workshop will go towards adjusting the information asymmetries in the supply chain and advancing the miners’ and diggers’ autonomy so they may attain a fairer distribution of profit.
The scope of the training was the basics of rough diamond grading and valuation, as the targeted population currently has very little to no understanding of rough diamond, although they have been working in the ASDM sector for years.
Direct Beneficiary for the 2-day workshop: 25 ASDM miners and diggers in Bomi and Gbarpolu Counties of Liberia
Direct Beneficiary for the Knowledge Sharing Sessions: ASDM miners and diggers in 17 mining communities in Bomi and Gbarpolu Counties of Liberia
Progress as of April 13th 2022
1.Consensus Building and Preparatory Survey
The project team visited all the targeted communities in February and March 2022. During each visit, we described the purpose and scope of the project, obtained the consent from the community leaders, met with the miners and diggers, and interviewed candidates for the 2-day workshop.
In the meetings with the community leaders and prospective participants, we emphasized that this workshop is not in the interest of the individuals selected but in the interest of the miners and diggers in the community as a whole. Therefore, the participants for the 2-day workshop were asked to recognize that they were representing their communities and that they would be required to disseminate their learning through knowledge sharing sessions upon their return home. They were also obliged to hand over the tool kit to a senior member in each community so that all the miners/diggers have access to it. The project team is currently monitoring all these activities to make sure they take place.
[Major Survey Findings]
We conducted interviews with candidate participants to assess their level of literacy and numeracy, their existing understanding of diamonds, and their trustworthiness. Major findings are as follows:
- We asked candidate participants to read a paragraph about the workshop and asked if there were any words they did not understand. The majority of them said they did not understand the word “gemstone.” Others queried the words “worth” “flaw” “rough” and “polish.”
- We asked them “what do you think a diamond is”? Common answers are “a diamond is a precious stone/rock/mineral.” Only one interviewee answered that it is composed of carbon atoms.
- We asked “why are diamonds valuable?” Many interviewees answered that it is because diamonds have many uses. Some knew that diamonds were used for industrial purposes. However, only 7 interviewees out of 91 interviewees (7%) mentioned that diamonds are used in jewelry.
- We asked which diamond among many rough diamonds in a photo is the most valuable and the least valuable. Though many interviewees chose the least valuable one correctly, only 5 interviewees (5%) chose the most valuable one correctly.
The above demonstrated that their existing understanding of diamonds is minimal and often hampered by misinformation. For instance, many miners and diggers believed that diamonds were used in airplanes to help them to fly. Whilst there is an element of truth in that, as synthetic polycrystalline diamonds can be used to machine components used in airplanes, it is not in any way in line with the miners and diggers interpretation. Many of them also believe that clean diamonds actually contain water.
We also collected information on their run of mine over the past year (2021), detailing the average and median weight, and common shape and the color of diamonds they typically find.
|Weight of diamonds
|Less than 1 carat
|Shape of diamonds
|Color of diamonds*
*Many interviewees answered that they find black, green, brown, pink diamonds once in a while.
2. Selecting the Workshop Participants
Upon return from the community visits and compiling the results, the project team revised the criteria that would be used to select the participants for 2-day workshop.
Basic Criteria to Select the 2-day Workshop Participants
|a) They can read and write
b) They can calculate
c) They have as some knowledge on diamonds (this is not a must but preferable)
d) They are a citizen of the community, not a temporary resident
e) They are trustworthy
As we found that there are very few literate women miners/diggers in the targeted mining communities, we adjusted the first criterion to an understanding of spoken English only, in order include some female participants.
The fifth criterion, trustworthiness is particularly important. Artisanal diamond mining is a secretive business, and it was noted throughout our preliminary survey that miners and diggers in many communities do not trust one another. Therefore, we reference checked the most trusted and proactive members in each community and selected them as potential participants.
Based on the above criteria, we selected 25 participants for the workshop, five of which are women. Three out of five women are illiterate but can understand spoken English.
3. Developing Training Materials
This project had two subject specialists. One is Beth West, an experienced gemologist and educator, and the other is Hitindra Misttry, a rough diamond expert from IGI. Hitindra Misttry and Beth West jointly developed bespoke training materials, a manual and handouts, making efforts to ensure that the content was pitched at the appropriate level for the students. Hitindra developed self-learning videos which would make future learning activities even easier.
Contents for the Manual “Understanding Rough Diamonds”
|· What is a diamond and why is it valuable?
· How diamonds were formed
· Rough and Polished Diamond
· The 4C’s (Cut, Carat, Clarity, Color)
· The Rough Diamond Grading Process (Gem or Industrial, Color, Shape, Quality)
· How to Work out the Approximate Value of a Rough Diamond
· The Importance of Record Keeping
We appreciate Ralf Tappert, Laurence Barber, Jared Holstein from D’Amadeo, Kevin Vantyghem from Vantyghem Diamonds, De Beers Institute of Diamonds, and IGI for the supplied images.
4. 2-day Workshop
We held the 2-day workshop in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County inviting 25 participants and one observer from the Cooperative Development Agency. They arrived to the venue on April 10th, participated in the workshop on 11th and 12th, and departed on 13th.
The Workshop Program
|April 10th (Sun)
|– Participants arrival
– Setting Ground Rules
|April 11th (Mon)
|– Opening Ceremony
– Introduction of 4Cs
– The 4Cs – Cut, Carat, Clarity, Color
– Loupe Exercise with Quartz Crystals to practice
– The Rough Grading Process – Weight and Color
– Practical Color and Fluorescence Exercise
– Shape (Sawable v Makeable)
– Practical Shape Exercise
– Practical Grading Session
– Questions & Answers
|– Questions & Answers
|April 12th (Tue)
|– Recap on Day 1 and Practical Grading Session
– Diamond Supply Chain
– The Pricing of Rough Diamonds (Reverse Price Engineering)
|– Practical Grading and Valuing
– Importance of Record Keeping
– Questions & Answers
– Action Plan
|– Way Forward
– Closing Ceremony
|– Video shooting of Some Participants
All the participants were excited to participate in this workshop as they had been craving the opportunity to learn about diamonds. In order to use time effectively, we had evening sessions, which was unusual for workshops held in Liberia, but participants joined all the sessions patiently and seriously.
We allocated lots of time for questions & answers to deepen their understanding. Some interesting questions raised were:
- When the diamond is initially formed, can it be solid or in a liquid form?
- Which year was a diamond discovered?
- I heard the lightening makes big cracks in diamonds. Is it true?
- What causes inclusions in diamonds?
- Which soil type has more diamonds, river, valley or swamp?
- How do diamonds travel from one place to another?
- Which country produces the highest quantity of diamonds?
- How and when does volcanic erosion take place in the soil?
- Can we find polished diamonds underground?
- Why are bigger diamonds are found at the top of the river?
- What color of diamonds is most valuable?
- What gives diamonds a different color?
- What is the most important use of diamonds?
- Is there any stone which is more valuable than diamonds?
- Do diamonds have a fixed price?
- Is the gold color diamond in Liberia the most valuable?
The trainer answered each question and explained till the participants could understand it.
I have never seen a group of students so eager to know everything about a subject. I think I could have answered questions all night! The expression “a hunger for knowledge” does not suffice – it was like witnessing them devour their first ever meal. –Beth West, the Trainer for the Project
We also had group exercises starting with the use of loupe. The trainer went around each table, showed each participant how to use it, and made sure each participant understood.
It was not easy for many participants to place a loupe close to the dominant eye and to look at a stone with both eyes open in the beginning. Participants were gradually getting used to it and practice after the workshop will obviously be required!
Another group exercise was to estimate the remaining percentage of a rough diamond after it had been polished (the yield). Each group received a worksheet on which the trainer had drawn a hypothetical rough diamond, together with its proposed color, fluorescence and variable clarity features. Participants discussed if it was a sawable or makeable model, and how many and what grade of polished diamond(s) could be produced out of the rough. They then estimated the possible yield of the rough diamond crystal.
The most difficult but the most interesting session for participants was the rough price calculation using reverse price engineering from an industry recognized price list. Although it is not straightforward and entails a lot of calculation, most of the participants understood the process and some mastered it.
“Although the pricing of a rough diamond using this method comes with many caveats, of which I made the participants aware, we recognized that this component of the course needed to be included. The miners and diggers have long felt that the pricing of a rough diamond was a secret that they were not allowed to be party to. This is true, to an extent. We were, therefore, eager to eliminate such opacity and arm the participants with as much understanding of the subject as possible.” –Beth West, the Trainer for the Project
We also included sessions on the responsible supply chain and the role a valid diamond license plays, together with the importance of record keeping, and the benefits of organizing themselves into a cooperative. Among the participating 17 communities, only one community has a cooperative with full-fledged status, and another with pre-cooperative status. Some participants told us that they would encourage miners/diggers in his/her community to organize themselves.
In the closing ceremony, we officially handed over a tool kit to each community and emphasized the participants would hand it over to the community so that all the miners/diggers have access to it.
A Tool Kit
A laminated manual
Finally, the trainer handed a certificate of completion to each participant. All the participants learned at their best and were happy to be a part of the workshop.
“It was an honor to teach them all. I am so grateful to each of the students for reminding me that knowledge is power, but it should always be a power for good.”
“This is only the first step in a long road. The information asymmetry in the diamond supply chain, particularly in the ASM sector, is one of the largest obstacles the diamond industry will have to navigate before it can get close to proclaiming the supply chain ‘responsible’.” –Beth West, the Trainer for the Project
We will write about the knowledge sharing sessions in those communities in the next article.
Front photo: The trainer instructs how to use 10x loupe to participants. Photo courtesy of Tomo, April 2022.
 The World Bank, 2013 https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/extractiveindustries/br
 Garside, 2021 https://www.statista.com/topics/1704/diamond-industry/#:~:text=In%202019%2C%20for%20example%2C%20the,approximately%2079%20billion%20U.S.%20dollars.
 In this article, “miner” refers to a person who has or is supposed to have an artisanal mining license, and “digger” refers to a person who actually provide labor to mine diamonds. In Liberia, these two terms are used under these definitions.
 “Supporter” refers to a local investor, sometimes one from neighboring country, to provide miners/diggers with (a part of) tools, equipment and meals for a mining project. Some supporters have broker license and others do not.