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Sierra Leone is one of Africa’s few countries with large diamond mines (Bellows & Miguel, 2009). The West African country is renowned for its constant conflicts fuelled by a desire to control the diamond fields. In this regard, the renaming of the minerals as blood diamonds is associated with deaths and atrocities committed against the civilians living within the minefields. Since the Sierra Leone civil war of the 1990s, the country has redirected its conflict over other issues related to diamonds. Initially, the blood diamonds were used to fuel the civil war.
However, the need to use the diamonds for commercial gains has fuelled new controversies in the country. Among these controversies are poverty, the low market prices, and the environment. Amid the need to establish control over the diamond trade in poverty-stricken Sierra Leone, the negative environmental impacts associated with the practices are unethical. Therefore, blood diamonds have a negative environmental effect.
Blood diamond conflicts
Blood diamond conflicts were a devastation to the environment. During the civil war in Sierra Leone, warlords smuggled diamonds to traders in the black markets to fund for their military equipment and training (Grant, 2005).
With time, the need to acquire more diamonds as the war progressed resulted in the killing of people who lived within the vicinity of the diamond mines. Also, thousands of Sierra Leone citizens were subjected to slavery by rebels who required labor force for diamond extraction. In this context, the lack of proper mining methods and equipment led to unconventional mining methods that are dangerous to the environment.
Methods used to extract blood diamonds had a negative environmental impact on Sierra Leone’s environment (Zulu & Wilson, 2012). Extraction of blood diamonds took place along the rivers. In this context, people were forced to damage the vegetative cover along the river banks. Consequently, this led to increased soil erosion of the country’s fertile lands.
Increased cases of soil erosion negatively affected the fertility of farmlands, which no longer yielded enough food. The methods used to extract blood diamond were scrupulous and caused contamination of water sources. It is to be noted that rebels forced people to look for diamonds in the rivers. Therefore, this caused water pollution, and people who were dependent on rivers for home use, agriculture and consumption were affected.
On the other hand, the blood diamond was extracted in secrecy, and this led to increased cases of small-scale mining. In this regard, rebels and respective miners engaged in artisanal mining method. The artisanal mining technique requires the clearing of land, and eventual deforestation and land degradation take precedence (Zulu & Wilson, 2012).
Deforestation and land degradation affect the entire ecosystem. For example, land degradation leads to the destruction of farmlands and soil erosion. Also, deforestation affects the surrounding climatic condition with lack of rainfall being a possible consequence.
Creation of deserts is initiated by the gradual lack of vegetation and deforestation. Therefore, this means that degradation and plantations that supported animals and other living creatures is depleted with time. In such a case, cases of hunger and constant conflicts become the norm. Sierra Leon farmers were in constant conflict with artisanal miners (Zulu & Wilson, 2012). The conflict was fuelled by the miners’ lack of environmental consciousness.
For example, artisanal miners did not consider the health and environmental hazards that the excavated areas posed to local communities. Diamond miners carelessly did not fill mining pits, and this became mosquito habitats as they accumulated stagnant water. In this context, the increased cases of malaria in Sierra Leone became pandemic.
The fact that blood diamonds led to the creation of inhabitable lands is damning. To be precise, blood diamond miners re-routed rivers and constructed artificial dams that affected fish farming and wildlife (Zulu & Wilson, 2012). Although blood diamond mining is still practiced in Sierra Leone after the civil war, its effects are still rife from an environmental perspective.
For example, the use of toxic substances in mining has caused a severe environmental impact on marine life. Research studies reveal that communities living in the southwestern region of Sierra Leone, especially in Gbakima, are exposed to schistosomiasis and parasitic ailments (Zulu & Wilson, 2012).
Other studies in regions like Bo Town and Tongo Field expose how blood diamond mining led to heavy siltation in river beds, making it difficult to conduct fish farming.
Blood diamond is a renowned phenomenon in West African countries that have experienced civil war. Sierra Leone is one of the countries that used its resources to fuel a civil war. In this case, the blood diamond was sold by rebels selling to access weapons and training. Therefore, the mining of the blood diamond was unregulated and reckless.
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Consequently, the environmental effects derived from the activities were disastrous. To this, every day, lands used for diamond mining are still inhabitable. Also, some of the rivers cannot sustain fish farming due to heavy toxics, siltation, and soil erosion (Zulu & Wilson, 2012). Sierra Leon’s farmlands no longer support food production as they remain inhabitable. Therefore, blood diamond is unethical and has a negative environmental impact.
Bellows, J., & Miguel, E. (2009). War and local collective action in Sierra Leone. Journal of Public Economics, 93(11), 1144-1157.
Grant, J. A. (2005). Diamonds, foreign aid and the uncertain prospects for post-conflict reconstruction in Sierra Leone. The Round Table, 94(381), 443-457.
Zulu, L., & Wilson, S. (2012). Whose minerals, whose development? Rhetoric and reality in post‐conflict Sierra Leone. Development and Change, 43(5), 1103-1131.