Monday, January 03, 2011

poverty amid diamonds

Thousands of people dependent on diamond mining in the eastern regions of the Central African Republic earn pitiful wages and are continually harassed by local and foreign armed groups, says a new study by the International Crisis Group. Poverty and crime characterize the diamond business. Costs such as the hiring of equipment and licensing fees make for a hand-to-mouth existence, especially for those struggling to feed large families. According to the UN Children’s Fund, chronic malnutrition in Central African Republic stems from, among other things, loss of income in mining areas.

“Miners are mostly ignorant of a diamond’s real value and, even if they know it, they are obliged to sell at the price offered, sometimes by written contract to the collector who financed the work… A collector might buy a one-carat diamond from a miner at 80,000 CFA francs [US$160] and sell it to a buying office for 200,000-300,000 CFA francs [$400-$600],” said the report.

Armed groups such as the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP) and the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) remain active in the eastern diamond zone, making “the east a dangerous place to live and move around”, said the report, which noted that while diamond profits are not the only reason for rebel activity, they have contributed to making such rebellions harder to end it.
“The inability of artisanal miners to escape poverty holds back development in mining areas and increases the risk of young men and women joining rebel groups in the hope of better alternatives,” it said.

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