The article at IDEX
by Albert Robinson
In a further update to the theme of the good that diamonds do, we learned today that Russian diamond mining giant ALROSA has been ranked by the UN Office in the Russian Federation among the top three firms for environmental responsibility among Russian mining and smelting companies.
The environmental responsibility rating has been jointly developed by the World Wildlife Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, the Global Environment Facility, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation. Each participating company was assessed according to three factors: environmental management, environmental impact, and disclosure/transparency, which included more than 30 criteria. ALROSA was placed in the top of all three sections. The rating covered a total of 33 companies.
ALROSA, like De Beers and many other diamond miners, makes tremendous efforts to reduce its environmental impact in order to protect the areas in which it operates. Indeed, so widespread are ALROSA's activities that it spent approximately $930 million last year alone on environmental protection activities, while the total relevant expenditures for 2012-2016 came to more than $4.65 billion.
It's not just miners that are investing in environmental and corporate social responsibility projects, of course. There are three companies that immediately come to mind in this respect. Rosy Blue has been quietly donating money for education, health and other projects in India for many years. And at the other end of the pipeline from the miners, jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co has appointed a corporate social responsibility executive, and Signet Jewelers has taken a big stand on responsible sourcing.
In addition, diamond and jewelry industry bodies, such as the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, have been actively promoting the importance of environmental concern and CSR to their memberships for a number of years.
Meanwhile, back at ALROSA, the miner has its own environmental department and carries out industrial environmental monitoring on a regular basis. The environmental action plan covers all ecosystems, including water, ground, air, flora, and fauna, while the company is implementing various social and environmental projects.
It may not always sound very sexy, but the projects are extremely important at the local level. ALROSA has implemented two major infrastructure projects in Yakutia as part of the Year of Ecology in Russia. The first was the construction of a unit for reinjection of water from open pit and underground mines back to the Zapadny Fault. Due to the network of wells and a drainage system, highly-mineralized water from the Internatsionalny underground mine is drained to the Metegero-Ichersky aquifer system, thus protecting the topsoil and surface water resources. The second project provides for the reconstruction of sewage treatment facilities with a capacity of 15,000 cubic meters per day in the town of Udachny. This project, the miner explains, is of strategic importance for the fishery region where local rivers require special protection.
This year, the company also expanded an industrial environmental monitoring program and run educational projects focused on raising the awareness of the people living in Yakutia where the majority of its diamond mining operations are located. ALROSA is also pursuing its efforts to reduce the consumption of water and energy, to reduce the CO2 emissions, and the results of those efforts will be summarized next spring, says Polina Anisimova, the senior official under whose department.
It's not just that the diamond industry creates jobs and livelihoods for miners across the world, particularly in Africa. It commits to dealing with the environmental impact of its work – both during operations and after the mine's life has come to an end. Mining firms provide health and educational facilities as well as other infrastructure. There is so much of this being done that it wouldn't be fair to point to the work of any particular firm.
It seems to me that the industry should be doing a much better job of making this environmental and corporate social responsibility work better known. And that is all the more the case when we see some members of the lab-grown diamond community making irresponsible claims that the diamond trade has an almost reckless attitude towards the environment, supposedly churning up the land and leaving behind a moonscape. If you don't report it, then only you know you did it, and that's a great shame.