Oppenheimer Comments on Angolan Diamond Embargo

November 11, 1999

Oppenheimer Comments on Angolan Diamond Embargo

In a speech in South Africa today, De Beers Chairman Nicholas Oppenheimer warned the diamond industry and governments around the world against thinking of diamonds originating in war-torn African countries as "tainted."

Worldwide efforts to end the purchase of diamonds from Angola, where the rebel group UNITA is using diamond sales to buy arms, captured the attention of the international press and focused the spotlight on other problem countries such as Sierra Leone and Eastern Congo. U.S. State Department intelligence analysts say these countries have sold at least $1 billion worth of diamonds in the past decade.

De Beers, the United Nations and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association have all imposed diamond sanctions on Angola. Earlier this month, Rep. Tony Hall (R-OH) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would, if made law, require certificates of origin for all diamonds and diamond jewelry imported to the U.S. for sale. Jewelers would have to post information about origin in a conspicuous place on the diamond's box or container when selling the diamond to a consumer. (Visit thomas.loc.gov and type "H.R. 3188" in the Bill Number search engine to read the full text of the bill.)

Oppenheimer said he worries publicity created by such condemnations of certain diamonds will hurt the diamond mining industry as a whole. "Less than 1.5% of all diamonds produced in the world last year came from Angola," Oppenheimer said. "There is little more than one in 100 chance that a diamond purchased by a consumer will have come from Angola. If, however, people are still moved by the false and damaging claim that most diamonds are tainted, I ask them to remember that there is at least a one in three chance that they will contribute to putting a Botswana miner out of work."

- by Robert Weldon, G.G., and Stacey King