Open Source Minerals resigns from Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC)

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Open Source Minerals, founded a few years ago by Mike Angenent, offers ethical, traceable and transparent sourcing for diamonds and other gems. It has become one of the most respected organizations in the ethical sourcing community, providing ethically sourced diamonds and gems to jewelers interested in exceptional standards. Now, Open Source Minerals has resigned from the RJC. This resignation, as Mike’s letter below reveals, was catalyzed by RJC’s stance in the allowance of diamonds from the Marange field in Zimbabwe.

The Kimberley Certification Process (KP) is certifying these Marange diamonds. KP has been the backbone of the diamond trade, as it was developed in response to the blood diamond tragedy in which over three million Africans died mostly between 1990 and 2000. RJC is backing KP, despite the fact that human rights violations, including rape and murder, have been widely documented in Marange.

This resignation is an important development for those who follow these issues closely. It is further evidence of the split between the large scale companies and trade organizations that drive the RJC agenda, and the smaller organizations, such as Fair Jewelry Action, interested in developing more comprehensive standards based not only on traceability and transparency, but human rights and environmental justice.

Below is Mike’s letter to the RJC ~ Toby Pomeroy

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Due to RJC’s decision to welcome the Kimberley Certification Process’s (KP) agreement regarding Zimbabwe, I decided that it would not befit Open Source Minerals to retain it’s RJC membership.

I can understand, to some extent, that multi-stakeholder decisions require compromises and should be considered professionally and not personally. I do not however, share that view. Decisions like these are never merely professional, as they affect the lives and livelihoods of many. My concern for the lives of the small scale is therefore very personal and should be the main concern in any policy making decision.

Furthermore, it is one thing to come to a professional compromise and another to acknowledge the same as being “Responsible.”

Responsibility is about the Council’s and its member’s bigger role in society. Establishing a Code of Conduct should not externalize costs by expensive auditing measures, but should first and foremost lead to true empowerment and shareholding of communities.

Therefore, responsibility should in the first place extend to the villagers of Marange in Zimbabwe that discovered the diamonds in 2006. These are among the poorest people in the world – despite the $56 million sold in the recent tenders. Any Council claiming Responsibility, as an absolute requirement, should take stewardship into assuring that the basic rights of these people are met.

There is also a Supreme Court order* regarding legal ownership of Chiadzwa which has been ignored by the KP. While the KP might have its reasons to ignore it under the mandate they have, I do not think it befits the RJC to do the same. Compliance with national law is a basic requirement for all who claim responsible practices and especially for those who promote them.

I understand that under the current definition of ‘blood diamonds’ it has been difficult for the KP members to file Marange’s production as such. Semantics however should not be the main concern when people’s lives are involved. However difficult it may be, it is again one thing to come to such a decision and another to acknowledge it.

While this case could have been a clear statement by the RJC of its independence and that it is living up to the internationally applicable standards they have set out in their Ethical and Responsible sourcing / Stewardship, it has now become a meager compromise to a decision that “if implemented could provide hope”.

That the decisions and demands are not being implemented should not come as a surprise.

*There are pending legal disputes over ownership (Chiadzwa) after Africa Consolidated Resources was taken over illegally and forcefully by state owned companies.

Pending or not, there seem to be some Supreme Court orders that where disregarded by the KP.

Mike Angenent