By: Austin Balm
Hundreds of thousands of people today wear diamonds that unbeknownst to them were at the expense of innocent and mutilated Africans who never will be able to wear jewelry of their own. One of the largest diamond mines was discovered in South Africa in 1872. The effects the diamond mining had on the locals were so detrimental; the diamonds were called “blood diamonds” because of the blood that was shed by the slaves that mined the diamonds. Funds from the blood diamonds were raised to purchase weapons that led to wars that led to the death of thousands of innocent people. Many believed that apartheid began in 1948, however it went way back to the 1800’s when the first diamonds were discovered. If these diamonds were never found, it would have saved thousands of innocent civilians dying in the Sierra Leone civil war, the amputation of limbs of innocent villagers would not have happened, and little boys would have been saved from forced drugs and brainwashing to kill for the rebels. All of these atrocities were done because diamonds were so valuable to the rebels, which led them to commit horrible human rights abuse to protect the diamond mines. Governments around the world are trying to help stop the trade of blood diamonds through the Kimberley Process, however, this process relies on the honesty of the parties and the regulations are not strongly enforced. In the end, the world would be a better place to live, especially for the people in Sierra Leone, if diamonds were never discovered. However, diamonds have been discovered, and this will not change, as buyers of the precious stones our attitudes can change once we know what diamonds are and what they mean.
It all began in 1867 when a shiny stone was found in the South African Orange River near the town of Kimberley, it was a 21-carat diamond. Two years later an 83-carat diamond was discovered (Diamonds Gold and South Africa). The first big diamond mine in South Africa was opened in Kimberley in 1871 and has produced over 14.5 million carets of diamonds. The discovery of the diamonds had a major impact on the country. A railroad linking the interior cities to coastal cities revolutionized transportation and created economic growth in agricultural (1700’s).
By 1872, the diamond rush began and there were over 50,000 laborers in the Kimberley area. The owners of the mines liked to call them laborers, but they were outright slaves. In 1872 British officials created a new law for labor contracts, stating the employment of masters and servants (Meredith 45). This new law was able to control black labor for decades. When blacks arrived in Kimberley, they were labeled as servants and required to register at a clearing station and receive their daily pass they needed for employment. The contract the servants signed included their name, their wages, the dates of service and who their master was (Meredith 45). These servants had to carry a pass signed by their master at all times. Any servant found wandering around without a pass could receive a fine or even imprisonment up to three months along with a whipping (Meredith 45). Due to the immense amount of employees and the value of the diamonds, the Diamond Trade Act was enacted in 1882 by Cecil Rhodes, the owner of DeBeers, which was designed to stop illicit diamond buyers. However, the act seemed more interested in stopping employees from stealing and smuggling the diamonds they had mined.
First, anyone found with a diamond was required to explain why they had it, essentially they were assumed guilty instantly and they had to prove their innocence. The Diamond Trade Act allowed the companies to set up "searching-houses" which allowed the company police to strip search employees and search employees homes without warning. The method of searching houses was successful, since it was implemented; the mines production rose, showing there was a