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June 2000

Recently, the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Africa held hearings on the issue of conflict diamonds. De Beers supplied written testimony to Congress on the issue.

In its testimony, De Beers said it was “appalled at the link that has been made between diamonds and the funding of weapons purchased by rebel armies in Africa. The company is particularly saddened because it has first-hand experience of the contributions diamonds can make to a country through royalties and taxes, provided they are exploited under an orderly, predictable, transparent and well-regulated mining regime. Such regimes are the norm in those Southern African countries where the diamond industry has been crucial to economic development: South Africa, Namibia, and most recently, Botswana.”

The company also noted that, as of March 2000, it began to issue guarantees that none of its diamonds emanate from conflict areas in Africa.

De Beers disputed one possible solution to the “conflict diamond” question — requiring certificates of origin on all polished diamonds. “This suggestion ignores the complexity of the diamond industry,” the company says.

De Beers contends that “while it is possible for a parcel of rough diamonds to produce a coherent picture, which can be interpreted by an expert to determine from whence it came. However once that picture is broken up it becomes like a jigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces. Identification then becomes a matter of guesswork.”

They also noted that giving the diamond a “mark” would not work, since most diamonds lose weight during the polishing process. In addition, it would be economically unfeasible to do for smaller stones.

De Beers, however, did have some suggestions of its own, including:

Have the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and other organizations banish any member found violating U.N. resolution 1173, which forbids the purchase of Angolan diamonds;

Concerned governments should pass laws to empower their diamond import control offices and officers to refuse entry to wrongly declared or described rough diamonds;

Each rough diamond center’s import/export office should have a run of mine samples from countries with a rebel problem;

The cutting center banks should agree on a standard declaration form about conflict diamonds to which all their customers are required to abide;

Publish accurate rough diamond import/export statistics by country from all of the cutting centers so that the trade is aware of the volumes involved.

It also suggested creating a new standardized international import/export document for diamonds.

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