For humanity to thrive, it has to utilize naturally-occurring and artificial resources. However, these resources are scarce, limited, and not uniformly distributed. Conflicts have emerged in various locations all over the world as a result of the competition for these limited resources. Historically, these conflicts have been observed in association with the mining of oil, land and other natural resources. Diamond is a rare and precious naturally occurring mineral. Its properties make it highly valuable and desirable as a gemstone or as an industrial tool. Despite its desirable effects, diamonds have been associated with genocide, colonialism, forced labor, poverty, and oppression. The phenomenon of ‘Blood Diamonds’ emanates from illegally traded diamonds originating from central Africa. Conflicts associated with diamonds have generated a global concern and debate. This paper aims at exploring the circumstances surrounding these ‘Conflict Diamonds’. In order to accomplish this, the paper will outline the properties of diamond that make it a precious substance. The uses of the mineral will then be explored. Finally, the paper will explore the history surrounding the mining and trade of the mineral that led to it becoming a source and consequence of the conflict in war torn counties in Africa.
Diamond is an allotrope of carbon. Allotropes are forms of an element that exist in the same physical state. These substances are composed of the same pure substance, but exhibit different chemical and physical properties. Other allotropes of carbon include coal and graphite. Compared to diamond, these substances are softer and darker. Therefore, they are used for different uses. Graphite, for example, is used in pencil leads and as a solid lubricant, while coal is used as a fuel and catalyst in various industrial processes.
Diamond is formed when carbon atoms are joined with covalent bonds to form a giant molecular structure. These covalent bonds require substantially high amounts of energy to break. This property makes diamond have very high boiling and melting points. As a result of the structure of the substance, diamond is a hard substance. It is the hardest known naturally occurring substances on the Earth. It also has a high tensile strength. The structure of diamond allows it to have a varying specter of the light transmission. Diamond varies from being transparent to being opaque. The substance is insoluble and has a low reactivity to other chemical substances. The clarity of various classes of the mineral usually determines its uses.
Diamond occurs in nature as a mineral in deposits in mineral rocks known as xenoliths. The mineral can also be found in alluvial deposits on the surface of the Earth. To obtain the substance, the mineral deposits are mined. The formation of diamond takes place when carbon is exposed to high levels of pressure and heat conditions. This occurs naturally during the volcanic eruption on the Earth’s crust. Alluvial diamond is brought to the surface through a process of constant erosion. The mineral’s hardness allows it to survive the process of erosion. The mineral occurs all over the world, however, significant deposits in some regions favor industrial mining. The majority of diamonds in the global market originate from Africa. South Africa mines and exports the largest amount of diamonds in the world. Synthetic diamond is an artificially manufactured diamond through the heat and pressure treatment of carbon. This artificial substance has properties that are similar to the naturally occurring substance. It supplements the demand for diamonds in the global market.
Uses of Diamond
Diamond is used as a gemstone and as an industrial tool. The physical properties of the mineral form the basis for its application. Its property as a lustrous, yet hard substance makes diamond one of the most valued gemstone. The substance has varying levels of clarity, colors and hardness. The stone occurs in varying colors depending on the impurities within it. These impurities, such as nitrogen and other substances, affect the properties of diamond. Clear diamond occurs in colors like red, pink, blue and green.
Gemstone diamond is used as a fashion accessory, and it has a substantially high monetary value. Factors affecting the value of the gemstone include its color, cut and carat. Cut refers to the level of workmanship done on a piece of rough diamond to improve its aesthetic appeal and increase its durability. The rough pieces of diamond are cut in order to increase the ‘fire’, an ability of the substance to sparkle under light. Diamonds that emit the most ‘fire’ have a higher aesthetic appeal and are highly valued. This clarity also shows the mineral sample’s level of purity. A carat is a measure that is used to value the mineral and is equivalent to a fifth of a gram or one forty second of an ounce. This value system allows a standard valuation of the mineral.
Hardness, high compressive and tensile strength, and its non-reactivity to other substances favor diamond as an industrial tool. Diamond is used primarily as an abrasive and a cutting tool for industrial purposes. Diamond-tipped drills are used in boring hard metals and the Earth during mining and excavation. The mineral is also used as an abrasive, because it does not wear easily. Diamond is also used in X-ray machines and vacuum chambers. These applications utilize the light transmission properties of the mineral.
Diamond is considered valuable as a gemstone and as an industrial tool. The use of diamond as a gemstone gives it its high monetary value. Diamonds are considered the world’s most precious mineral. In 2010, the U.S. reports showed that the revenue generated in the market for gemstones was approximated at $19 billion. Among these transactions, diamonds contributed $18 billion, while other gemstones contributed the remaining value. The industrial use of the mineral is also crucial and has become a significant resource in the manufacturing industry in the world. The cost of manufacturing synthetic diamond is also high to a considerable degree. Scarcity, properties and uses of the mineral make it valuable.
Historically, the mining of diamond began in India. The extensive mining operations were, however, significantly used in South Africa in the late 19th century. Cecil Rhodes, a British colonial settler, exploited the mineral in the colony. As a result of the mining and trading operations, the DeBeers diamond cartel was established, and now it contributes to the highest amount of diamonds in the world market. From the growing awareness of the mineral, other mining exploits began in Africa. Regions, like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, began exploiting the mineral.
The United Nations defines ‘Black diamonds’ or ‘conflict diamonds’ as those traded illegally from regions of the civil unrest in Central and West Africa without the permission of relevant governments. The phenomena of ‘Black Diamonds’ came into being of the 1990s. The political instability and civil unrest led to the formation of rebel groups that were in conflict with governments of the state. Diamond mining and trade led to the infringement of human rights and freedoms. The mineral was used as the primary source of funding for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The illegal trade of the rough uncut diamonds led to genocide, torture of innocent people, forced labor and gender-based violence as the rebels controlled mines, and regions were used to fund and support military efforts. As a result of this conflict, the genocide in Sierra Leone is reported to have culminated in the loss of approximately 500,000 lives. In other areas in Africa, the use of child labor supports the mining and smuggling activities of the mineral. Globally, the illegal trade of diamonds has been used to fund terrorism and other illegal activities such as drug trade and organized crime.
The global awareness on the issue raised a concern on the injustices associated with the mineral. In order to maintain the positive attributes associated with the mineral, the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme was established. This scheme was aimed at evaluating the source of diamonds in order to inhibit the illegal trading. The Scheme was also accompanied by the enactment of laws that requires all dealers in the mineral industry to declare the sources of gems, and all gems should be certified. This effort helped in reducing the value of rough diamonds from the war torn areas. Other negative associations with diamonds in these areas include the poverty, low literacy levels, child exploitation and displacement of people from their land.
The aesthetic and physical properties of diamond make it a valuable mineral to humanity. The scarcity and uneven distribution of this mineral have contributed to its heightened value. However, the same factors have contributed to the negative effects that the mineral has on the society. The associated global value of diamond in the global market has accelerated conflicts in some areas of the world. The regions that harbor this highly valued mineral do not enjoy the benefits associated with the mineral; instead, they suffer from high losses in the process of its mining and trade. These ‘ugly truths’ behind the ‘beautiful’ mineral require a proactive action to mitigate. Such activities should include the increased awareness on the “blood’ associated with mining and trade of diamonds and the involvement of the World Authority in ensuring that justice is served to people coming from these conflict sources. Efforts to mitigate these negative factors ascribed to mining diamonds have not been entirely successful, but have been a step towards reducing the negative effects inherent to mining the mineral. In conclusion, authorities should continue seeking effective methods on a global scale to control the negative effects associated with the ‘Blood Diamonds’.
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