Apr 25, 2019

De Beers’ GemFair Pilot Project Being Scaled Up in Sierra Leone to Expand Reach

The pilot project developed by De Beers Group, GemFair, that aims “to create a secure and transparent route to market for ethically sourced artisanal and small-scale mined (ASM) diamonds”, is being expanded and scaled up in Sierra Leone. By doing so, the Company’s objective is to give more miners the opportunity to benefit from the opportunities the programme offers.

“The GemFair pilot provides ASM diamond miners with access to De Beers Group’s industry leading distribution channel, while seeking to improve ethical standards, working conditions and value for miners within the sector,” De Beers said explaining the project. “GemFair has partnered with the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), an NGO that has been instrumental in helping to formalise the diamond ASM sector in Africa.”

Upon its launch, GemFair worked with 16 mine sites in Sierra Leone. Over the past six months, the pilot has been extended to work with a further 38 sites in order to widen its impact.

The pilot has a programme to incentivise mine owners to work with GemFair. Under this, a membership model has been introduced, “whereby mine sites that meet a strict set of core requirements, aligned with the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, and pass due diligence checks, can join the programme and sell diamonds to GemFair”, De Beers said.

Miners then work with DDI towards achieving full Maendeleo Diamond Standards™ (MDS) certification, within a one-year timeframe. 

The Company reports that since the pilot was launched in April 2018, GemFair has seen significant progress across its operations. Offices have been opened in both Koidu and Freetown, and  a set of publicly available ASM standards to ensure a best practice approach for responsible sourcing have also been developed.

“The GemFair standards complement the Maendeleo Diamond Standards, which include standards relating to social, environmental and labour risks within the sector,” De Beers stated.

Feriel Zerouki, Senior Vice President, International Relations and Ethical Initiatives, De Beers Group, said: “Although the sector faces many challenges, we’ve been delighted with how the pilot has gone so far and it has proved its ability to use digital innovation to support responsible business practices and deliver traceability. We believe we have identified opportunities to make it even more impactful and are excited to expand the pilot’s reach to more sites in Sierra Leone. The GemFair model has huge long-term potential to transform the ASM sector by formalising access to international markets and raising operating and ethical standards across the sector.”

Amongst its initiatives is a unique digital solution to ensure the traceability of all diamonds registered through the programme. The toolkit contains an app and dedicated tablet that creates a digital record of each diamond found. De Beers aims to, in due course, integrate this technology with Tracr™, the industry blockchain solution led by De Beers Group.

Another notable component of the GemFair pilot is the educating of miners on diamond valuation. “While registered miners have no obligation to accept offers to purchase diamonds through the GemFair buying office, they are provided with free training in diamond valuation, so they can make an informed assessment about the value of their diamonds and negotiate the best possible deal,” De Beers assured.

Tutorials on diamond valuation can also be accessed by miners via the app, and equipment included in the toolkit is provided to assist miners in the valuation of their diamonds. The digital solution also helps GemFair to manage the membership and certification of each site and provides GemFair buyers with the assurance that diamonds offered for purchase are from registered sites.