March 5, 2007

With This Ring...

I am one of those odd women (wait, let me finish) who has no real use for jewelery. I remember desperately wanting a gold heart charm from a lad when I was 16, but after that, it's never really mattered. I'm a klutz, and I tend to catch bracelets and necklaces on things, and rings always caught on the pockets of my jeans which I once wore much too tight.

The ads for diamonds always left me cold, though I always figured 'to each his own'. You covet a diamond, go get a diamond. Whatever.

What opened my eyes originally was an excellent report in Vanity Fair magazine about 2 years ago, which I can't find a link for. But suffice it to say, it explored in bloody detail the diamond mining business in Africa, where 60% of the world diamonds are produced. And the murderous bloodshed used to extract those diamonds is beyond criminal. While we have always been led to believe that diamonds are rare, and therefore worth the ridiculous prices charged, the truth is that DeBeers has had a stranglehold on the industry and ruthlessly controlled the flow of the gems.

This article from PCRblog (an entity that focuses on international policy issues) describes some of the ongoing changes to the industry. The original VF piece was devestating in describing the exploitation of the African people so that rich folks could wear sparkly things. In the past few years, there has been a change in direction with diamonds, to secure Fair Trade status, not unlike you see with coffee. There are people that care where their stuff comes from.

So, where am I going with this? Well, now it appears we have diamonds going on in the Northwest Territories. I've known about it for awhile, but its becoming a huge operation. This Washington Post piece is interesting, especially in light of native rights issues going on in other parts of Canada. The Canadian mining activities are being conducted in a far different way than the African ones, though no matter how careful you are regarding environmental issues, mining still means you're raping the land.

Natives in the area, desperate for work and a future, are securing both as education levels are rising to meet the need for required technology and a workforce. Buildings, airports, entire communities are springing up in response to the demand for the extraction. So what troubles me about this? Well, diamonds as decorations will always strike me as a not very compelling reason to do this, but at the end of the piece is a throw away line: the life of this operation is about 20 years.

Another ghost town, more displaced people, another example of having a party and not cleaning up the mess. If diamonds really are a girl's best friend, I see why men claimed dogs.


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