(PRESS RELEASE) The Diamond Development Initiative announced it is preparing to pilot a program with the De Beers Group. The program, called GemFair, aims to create a secure and transparent route to market for ethically sourced artisanal and small-scale mined (ASM) diamonds.

GemFair will match tailored technology that enables the tracking of ASM production with demonstrable ethical standards to purchase rough diamonds from approved mine sites, while helping improve working conditions and livelihoods for those working in the sector.

For the pilot, GemFair is partnering with the Diamond Development Initiative, an NGO that has been leading efforts to formalize the diamond ASM sector in several parts of Africa. Miners who wish to participate in the GemFair pilot must be certified by DDI as meeting our Maendeleo Diamond Standards, as well as additional standards specific to the GemFair business model.

Once ethically certified, De Beers will provide qualified miners with a technology solution that includes an app and dedicated tablet, supported by a diamond 'toolkit' that will enable the digital tracking of ASM diamonds throughout the supply chain. 

Dorothée Gizenga, executive director of the Diamond Development Initiative, said: "DDI is focused on ensuring artisanal and small-scale miners have access to the opportunities, information and tools that help create self-sustaining communities and formally recognise the sector's contribution to economic development. We believe GemFair has the potential to significantly transform the sector by providing a new and secure route to market through the world's leading diamond company. We look forward to continuing to work with De Beers, the Government of Sierra Leone and all other stakeholders as we progress."

Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers Group, said: "The ASM sector represents a critical income source for many poverty-affected communities. However, due to parts of the sector being largely informal and unregulated, it lacks access to established international markets and the ability to derive fair value for participants. By providing a secure route to market, offering fair prices and helping to raise standards, we hope to play a role in enhancing the prospects for those working in the sector, while also potentially opening up a new source of supply for De Beers over the longer term."

The pilot will run in Sierra Leone where a number of artisanal mine sites are already participating in DDI's MDS program and where significant advancements have been made by the Government of Sierra Leone to formalize the ASM sector.

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The pre-pilot phase of GemFair will involve setting up a local presence in Sierra Leone and working with DDI and registered mine sites to ensure the agreed standards are being met, that participating miners are trained in how to use the technology solution, and that they have an enhanced understanding of diamond classification.

Once DDI and GemFair are confident the sites are compliant and the technology is working effectively, the pilot will commence with GemFair starting to purchase diamonds from participating miners. While offers will be made for any diamonds presented for sale, regardless of quality, miners will be under no obligation to sell to GemFair if they elect not to do so. Any approved purchases would be sold via De Beers' industry-leading Auction Sales channel.

The pre-pilot phase will commence this month, with the aim of a first purchase occurring later in 2018. There is no set timeframe for the pilot to be completed.

Following extensive research to understand the ASM sector and its specific needs, De Beers is developing a fit for purpose technology solution comprising a tablet (restricted to use of the GemFair software) and a software application that incorporates GPS locations and QR-coded 'bag and tag' equipment. The software has been designed to work both online and offline, to support the ability of miners to use it in different locations. The diamond toolkit includes hardware that can work in tough rural conditions, including being powered by solar chargers. The program also involves providing participating miners with training on diamond classification to help improve their understanding of the products they sell.

If proven successful, the technology used in GemFair will be integrated with the diamond industry blockchain platform De Beers is currently developing, allowing the ASM sector to participate in the blockchain and providing an added layer of assurance for ASM production.

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