“A CHAIR FOR EVERYONE”: NEW KP CHAIRPERSON ROBERT OWEN-JONES TALKS ABOUT HIS VISION
In an interview with Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau of Rough & Polished, the new Kimberley Process Chairperson Robert Owen-Jones talks about a myriad of issues – from improving the efficiency of the Kimberley Process to the issue of synthetic diamonds.
Owen-Jones’ vision for the upcoming year, he says, is two-fold: improving implementation of the Kimberley Process, such as the security of certificates, and opening the discussion about block-chain technology. Owen-Jones promises to run the KP “in a very transparent and open fashion” with no “secret or hidden agendas” and calls himself “the Chair for everyone”.
Among other issues, Owen-Jones addresses the issue of polished diamonds, promising that, though the focus of the KP is on rough diamonds, the issue of polished diamonds needs to be discussed: “That is something that we should discuss because the critical thing here is that we must maintain consumer confidence in diamonds and the value of diamonds […]”, he says, “I don’t need to tell you, so many people are employed by this industry and it should be an industry that works not just for the big mining companies like Rio Tinto, De Beers or Alrosa. It has to work for the small producers as well, and alluvial and artisanal producers are also part of the industry; so we must make sure that we continue to have a system that allows them to sell their products in a way that the jewellery consumers feel confident”.
Addressing the issue of revised minimum requirements and independent third-party assessments of compliance with the KP process, Owen-Jones says that “it’s perfectly normal to continually look at the requirements that we ask our participants, so that should be something we should discuss as well, but whether or not we raise it or lower it or make changes to it, is a separate issue”.
As for synthetic diamonds, the KP Chair declares that “there is nothing wrong with synthetic diamonds” but that the problem begins when undisclosed synthetics are inserted into a parcel of natural diamonds “to try and get a higher price for your synthetic diamonds”. That, he says, is “fraud”, and undermines “the confidence people have in the diamond chain. I think it’s a fantastic thing that the major bourses in the world are introducing machines that saw through melee for synthetics being put into the trade illegally. I think while people do fear this, it looks as though the evidence is slight about it being a major problem”.