Diamonds, according to the National Diamond Council’s Kristina Buckley Kayel, may be misunderstood.
Though diamond mining has long stirred controversy for its environmental impact, treatment of miners and the conditions they work in, Kayel, managing director of North America for the National Diamond Council, claimed that sustainability is a key component of the diamond mining process.
“Not only are natural diamonds nature’s most beautiful billion-year creation, they are also a precious resource for people and economies in the countries where they are found. Behind every naturally sourced diamond are schools, free education, hospitals, roads and wildlife reserves,” Kayel said. “A mine can only exist and operate if it works in symbiosis with government, local community and environmental authorities. Consider the fact that, on average, it takes 10 years for a mine to even open. Members provide opportunity for isolated communities in remote areas of the Earth where diamonds are found that would otherwise have limited, if any, alternatives.”
Members of the NDC — a group lobby venture forged by seven of the world’s biggest diamond producers that are in total responsible for between 75 and 80 percent of the global diamond supply — claim they are collectively responsible for improving the quality of life for 10 million people worldwide.
Lucara Diamond’s managing director for Botswana, Naseem Lahri, joined the conversation with Kayel, weighing in on the importance of sustainable diamond mining processes in Lahri’s native country.
“One thing I learned from childhood is that we have benefited from the diamond mining industry in Botswana…My entire schooling career was done locally and it’s available for free,” she said. “From my perspective, it’s quite key that operations in countries need to collaborate with authorities, they have to be very transparent in the way they do things and have to listen to communities in terms of what they need. I’ve learned through my appointment that we have to listen to communities because they understand exactly what they need and what they are looking for. So it’s collaborations of that sort that make things possible.”
The Sewelo diamond, mined at the Lucara facility that Lahri oversees, was discovered in 2019 and, at 1,758 carats, is considered the second-largest diamond ever found. Five percent of the stone’s retail sales will be given to local community projects in Botswana. Lucara revealed in January that it entered into a joint venture with Louis Vuitton to polish and sell the diamond.
Lahri said it’s imperative the diamond industry talks about its positive initiatives and sustainable practices. “The next stage for us is to show people, we need to get the story out there to show people that natural diamonds are the way to go — specifically because they have such a big impact on individuals and communities,” she said. “I wear a ring which is a Botswana diamond and I always talk about it with such pride because that particular diamond has empowered a child, a community and an entire nation. Diamond mining is so key for the country, so for me it’s really important for us to carry this message on sustainability and responsible mining.”