Diamonds Aren't Forever

By Kerlin, Katherine | E Magazine, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Diamonds Aren't Forever


Kerlin, Katherine, E Magazine


Environmental Degradation and Civil War in the Gem Trade

Gleaming gems shining from plush velvet cases in quiet jewelry stores make it easy to forget that some of these symbols of love and prosperity originated in distant lands, deep in the soil of conflict.

It's illegal in the United States to dump the finely ground ore materials known as "tailings" into waterways. But gem mining operations outside U.S. borders are not subject to the same rules, even if run by American companies or if their goods are bought by U.S. consumers. Large-scale demand calls for large-scale mining, which involves massive amounts of sedimentation and tailings falling into water systems around the world. The mercury and cyanide used to separate gold and copper from rock also finds its way into groundwater. The victims of these mining activities are generally local wildlife and indigenous peoples who live in resource-rich regions.

For example, New Orleans-based Freeport-McMoRan was sued in 1996 by indigenous leaders in Papua New Guinea for dumping 80,000 tons of mine tailings into the local river system daily. Freeport's environmental auditors, Dames and Moore, said plans to expand Freeport's mining activities in Indonesia could "increase its dumping of untreated tailings to 285,000 tons daily."

The diamond trade in Angola, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become one of the greatest sources of internal and environmental conflict in those areas. According to the Africa Policy Information Center, Angolan rebels made an estimated $3.7 billion in diamond sales between 1992 and 1998 to fund their war effort against the Angolan government. Until the war is over, enforcing environmentally sensitive mining techniques will continue to be placed on the back burner. Meanwhile, diverted rivers are causing people to dislocate, dredging ponds are ruining large areas of land, and the polluted water table has caused sickness in mining communities, local villages and wildlife.

Mining for jewels, however, is not inherently destructive. People have been finding valuable gems and minerals for centuries by panning in rivers at little environmental cost. There are even "theme parks" scattered across America that let you "mine your own gemstones."

Our romance with the stone employs thousands of people in gem-trading countries such as Namibia and South Africa, bolstering their economies. Most mining operations in the U.S. and other countries have extensive regulations requiring environmental assessments and land reclamation plans. Mines are expected to consider how their activities will affect native fish and wildlife, as well as abide by rules regarding air and water protection, waste disposal and the handling of hazardous materials. In the U.S., state reclamation laws call for revegetation, area cleanup and protection of surface and groundwater.

But the jewelry trade is a global, interweaving system of importers and exporters, miners and cutters, buyers and sellers. With no country-of-origin labeling system, consumers can never be sure if their jewelry came from a responsible source or one whose mining funded a civil war, leaked cyanide into groundwater or exploited indigenous people for their resources.

Jewelry Without Guilt

The tradition of diamonds and gold, especially for wedding and engagement rings, is firmly embedded in our culture, but we can adorn ourselves using more environmentally sustainable alternatives.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Diamonds Aren't Forever
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.