Virtual Symposium on the Effects of Covid-19 on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, May 13-14, 2020

Madeline Robertson

We have participated in the online symposium on the effects of COVID-19 on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) on May 13th and 14th and would like to introduce you what was discussed there under the permission of the organizer, Responsible Jewelry Transformative.

Symposium Summary

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, jewelers, community leaders, mining experts, and a group of jewelry industry professionals virtually came together in a two-day symposium to discuss the known effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on ASM communities. The symposium was structured so that each speaker had the opportunity to share their expertise and knowledge of the pandemic’s effects on their partner communities. After the speakers shared their summaries, the group fielded questions from the audience via the live chat.

The overarching theme of the symposium was that the opaque supply chains in mining are creating devastating effects on mining communities amidst this pandemic. ASM communities are extremely vulnerable under ordinary circumstances, but the pandemic has placed overwhelming stress on the food systems, working conditions, and medical care. In mining communities, buyers are unable to travel to mines, so transactions have halted in many cases. Without the routine travel to and from countries, as well as in country travel restricted, mining operations are either facing evolving operational standards or are at a standstill altogether. Since most of these mining communities rely on each diamond/gemstone sale to sustain their families, this standstill is disastrous.

A main question during the symposium was, “How can people (jewelers, consumers, buyers, etc.) contribute to a global solution now?” The speakers each answered with insight from their professional experience. Susan Wheeler raised an example of bringing several designers together as responsible buyers’ group who recently bought 4,000 carats of citrines mined and cut in Zambia. The group is writing a protocol that the designers will donate 20% of the sales to the program.

Dr. Rachel Perks of The World Bank empowered NPOs and NGOs with existing local partnerships to utilize their trusted contacts to distribute financial relief directly to community members. For those who do not have their own organizations with mining community contacts, Dr. Perks provided the suggestion of partnering with existing NGOs or NPOs such as PACT. If you are a jewelry designer, panelists strongly suggest using this quarantine to examine your own supply chains and have conversations with your suppliers to ensure you are contributing to ethically sourced goods. Enhancing the due diligence of our supply chains will begin to build a new standard for the jewelry industry. Fair systems create resilient communities, a goal of the Responsible Jewelry Transformative and ethically minded jewelers alike. If you are a jeweler looking to buy ethically sourced gems or diamonds and do not feel you have access to your current stone’s supply chain information, begin to buy from established organizations such as Moyo Gems that work tirelessly to provide transparency and equality for all.

There are also opportunities for organizations to partner to create short term and long-term solutions to Covid-19 aid. The World Bank and PACT partnered to create the database Delve, a global platform for ASM data. Through this data collection, the effects of Covid-19 in mining communities will be tracked and relief efforts can organize more efficiently. PACT is also working on an online platform for buyers to purchase gems remotely. This project is in its infancy due to the challenges of establishing a network of local partners during this time.

The takeaway from the symposium is that ASM communities are facing severe hardship amidst Covid-19. The jewelry industry is positioned to directly impact mining communities worldwide, especially in these unprecedented times. Through joint collaboration, jewelers and buyers can begin to build stronger, more traceable supply chains so that those responsible for mining precious stones are compensated equitably. Banding together now will shape ASM communities during and after the pandemic. We all have a role to play to face this inequality and we must work together to create fair and sustainable global systems.

Helpful Links

Symposium Recap

Delve Database – World Bank & PACT

PACT’s Covid-19 Response

Moyo Gemstones

Africa Gem Exhibition Conference

Speakers Present

Day 1

  • Susan Wheeler, Responsible Jewelry Transformative
  • Andrea Hill, Hill Management Group
  • Monica Stephenson, ANZA, iDazzle
  • Stuart Pool, Nineteen48
  • Brian Cook, Nature’s Geometry
  • Jessica Hudson, Nomad Jeweler
  • Monica Gichuhi, AGEC
  • Eric Braunwart, Columbia Gem House

Day 2

  • Susan Wheeler, Responsible Jewelry Transformative
  • Andrea Hill, Hill Management Group
  • Rachel Bernice Perks, World Bank
  • Benjamin Katz, OECD
  • Christina Villegas, PACT Worldwide


Front Photo: Artisanal diamonds miners in Liberia (c) Diamonds for Peace and royalty free image of COVID-19.