Many of the world's diamonds are mined using practices that exploit workers, children, and communities. A million diamond diggers in Africa earn less than a dollar a day. Miners are dying in accidents, child labor is widespread, and corrupt leaders are depriving diamond mining communities of funds badly needed for economic development.
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But their wages do not reflect the value of their work. An estimated one million diamond diggers in Africa earn less than a dollar a day. This unlivable wage is below the extreme poverty line. As a result, hundreds of thousands of miners lack basic necessities such as running water and sanitation. Hunger, illiteracy, and infant mortality are commonplace. Even within developing countries, diamond mining communities are often the most impoverished. How is it that diamond miners can be some of the poorest people on the planet?
Safety And Health
Small-scale diamond mining is usually an unregulated activity. Labor standards and minimum wage laws, if they exist, are rarely enforced, subjecting miners to the whims of cruel and exploitative employers.
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Many diamond miners work independently, There are one million diamond diggers in Africa earning less than a dollar a day. In most cases, diamond diggers have little choice but to sell their diamonds to middle-men at below market prices. Diamonds and Human Security. Besides being grossly underpaid, many diamond miners work in extremely dangerous conditions. Small-scale diamond mining is often conducted without training or expertise. Miners may lack safety equipment and the proper tools. They can easily die or be injured in landslides, mine collapses, and other accidents.
Diamond mining also contributes to public health problems. The sex trade thrives in many diamond mining towns, leading to the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Environmental devastation resulting from diamond mining is another cause of disease. In Sierra Leone, miners have littered the landscape with thousands of abandoned mining pits. These pits fill with stagnant rainwater, become infested with mosquitoes, and serve as breeding grounds for malaria.
South Africa: Miners demand safety first. Because children are considered an easy source of cheap labor, they are regularly employed in the diamond mining industry. In some areas of Africa, children make up more than a small part of the workforce. For children trapped in the diamond mines, life is full of hardship. Children work long days, often six or seven days a week. Compared with adults, they are even more vulnerable to injuries and accidents. Physically challenging tasks such as digging with heavy shovels or carrying bags of gravel can leave them hurt or in pain.
Because of their small size, children also may be asked to perform the most dangerous activities such as entering narrow mineshafts or descending into pits where landsides may claim their lives. As adults, these children often will have little choice but to continue working as miners. Child labor thereby condemns many children to a lifetime in the mines, robbing them as well as their countries of a brighter future.
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At Brilliant Earth, we believe that every child deserves an education. As part of our non-profit initiatives, we have helped to fund a program that removes children from diamond mines and pays for their schooling.
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Governments earn significant revenues from the diamond industry, both through taxation and profit-sharing arrangements. But they often fail to re-invest these funds in local communities. But conditions near major diamond mining projects are appalling.
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