De Beers Group is expanding the operations under its GemFair pilot project in Sierra Leone to give more diamond miners the opportunity to benefit from the programme and to remove conflict diamonds from the market.

The GemFair pilot project is aimed at creating a secure and transparent route to market for ethically sourced artisanal and small-scale mined (ASM) diamonds.

Under the programme, ASM diamond miners will have access to De Beers Group’s distribution channel.

GemFair has partnered with the non-governmental Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) to help formalise the ASM diamond sector in Africa.

After the launch of the pilot, GemFair worked with 16 mine sites in Sierra Leone, and to widen its impact, De Beers has extended the programme in the past six months to an additional 38 sites.

The company has introduced a membership model under which mine sites that meet core requirements, aligned with the OECD standards, can join the programme and sell diamonds to GemFair.

Miners work with DDI towards achieving full Maendeleo Diamond Standards certification, within a one-year timeframe.

A digital solution developed by GemFair ensures traceability of diamonds registered through the programme.

“GemFair worked with 16 mine sites in Sierra Leone, and De Beers has extended the programme in the past six months to an additional 38 sites.”

The toolkit contains an app and a tablet, which will create a digital record of each diamond found. The app records GPS locations, and a tamper-proof QR-coded ‘bag and tag’ equipment will be used for the diamond logging process.

The software can be used in different locations, as it works online and offline. The company intends to integrate the technology with Tracr, an industry blockchain solution led by De Beers Group.

De Beers said that the GemFair pilot also aims at educating miners on diamond valuation.

Even though registered miners are under no obligation to purchase diamonds through the GemFair buying office, they are given free training in diamond valuation, so they can make an informed assessment about the value and negotiate the best possible deal, it said.

Miners can also use the app to access tutorials on diamond valuation.

The digital solution also enables GemFair to manage the membership and certification of each site.