The Gemfair Way 2023

Supporting inclusion of a wider GemFair membership and upskilling artisanal miners on responsible mine site closure

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The Context

Another year of mine site reclamation and sustainable farming

In 2023 we focused on scaling our reclamation programme and making our farming practices even more sustainable and productive. We continued to implement the recommendations of our agronomist advisor, which delivered increased yield, particularly for our rice crops. Using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method, where farmers plant fewer seedlings spaced further apart, farmers doubled rice yields during the harvest while using fewer resources.

Key progress highlights include


Full-time jobs created


New reclamation sites converted into farms


Fish pond


Acres of land reclaimed and farmed


Pits backfilled

330 kg

Seedlings donated by GemFair


Types of plant harvested


Harvests completed


Female farmers

Another focus was improving soil quality on our farms. We monitor the pH of the soil and reduce its acidity by adding oyster shells or compost. After so many years of mining, some of the soil was so degraded that enriching it would not be sufficient enough. Instead, we removed the most degraded soil and added entirely new topsoil and compost, which has significantly improved crop growth.  

Tongoro 11 & 12 – trenching system and reclamation

This year we piloted the trenching method with two GemFair member sites based in the Southeast of Koidu and share common boundary. Both sites were selected for FPA 2022/23 and completed the mining work in July 2023. At both sites the miners extracted gravel and backfilled each trench as they continued.

Two trenches remained at the end of the mining phase in both license areas. Under the trenching method the pits were backfilled with tailings from washed gravel and then the entire mined area was covered with the topsoil retained at the start of mining plus new topsoil made from composting. The reclamation work was completed by the same miners who had mined the site with support from GemFair including purchasing the tools needed for the work.

New topsoil was made with support from GemFair staff. The diggers were able to prepare compost which was ready for use by the time they had finished backfilling and levelling the mined areas. The license holder appreciated learning how to do this very much, as well as having the opportunity to get his land back to a useful state as before the mining.
Next, the license holder planted rice, banana and orange trees which can provide future harvests.

The trench method is faster and less expensive than traditional methods of reclamation in artisanal mining. The reclamation work is efficient because most of the pits had been covered during mining ensuring the entire site is returned to its original state earlier.

Trenching method in implementation

Deep dive: Transforming a former diamond mine into a fish pond  

What do you do with a former mine site that was excavated using heavy equipment, making it nearly impossible to reclaim with our model of employing local workers? That’s a question we tried to answer in late 2022. During this time, we worked with the community in Tefeya village to find such a site that was abandoned where we could pilot a new use for the pit: converting the pit to a pond and populating with native fish.

A local team of ten workers led by a local fishpond expert constructed the pond over a three-week period. Then we treated the pond with lime to regulate the water’s Ph level so that it would be hospitable for the tilapia fingerlings (a term for young tilapia). After some months of allowing algae to grow, we worked with the fishpond expert to source and stock the pond with 700 fingerlings and provided a lesson to GemFair staff and the community on how to feed the fish.

Our journey to date has been a huge success – we have recorded nearly 1,500 fish, including fingerlings, juveniles and adults.

For the villages surrounding this pond, it’s providing an affordable source of food and income from selling the fish at the market.

Rebecca, Outreach Officer

Access to Finance programme expands  

We further expanded our Forward Purchase Agreement (“access to finance”) programme in 2023, in recognition of the pressing need in the artisanal mining sector for fair, equitable and transparent finance. This carefully designed programme delivered vital capital to 56 mines sites, allowing them to hire labour on fair terms and cover operational costs including equipment and consumables. In addition to finance, all of our sites receive a stipend to cover daily meals for miners, ensuring a happy and healthy workforce. 

We also took two important steps to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the FPA programme. Firstly, we redoubled efforts to base financing decisions on our increasing knowledge of the geological potential of mine sites; this allowed miners to conduct activity with greater confidence of unearthing valuable diamonds and deriving enhanced incomes from the activity.

Secondly, we redefined our repayment terms, in consultation with the miners to ensure a more equal spread of diamond value across accruing across all FPA recipients. As in previous years, if miners are unable to repay through diamond winnings within the season, the risk is assumed by GemFair and no debt is carried forward. 

The desire to continuously improve provision for miners drives decisions across our programme. As such, in advance of the season we held a workshop with mine managers and licence holders to ask them how we could improve our offering. Whilst the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, a number of valuable insights were directly translated into updated programme benefits. These include: 

  • All miner incomes were benchmarked against our living wage calculation and updated to account for forex changes and inflation.
  • All operational licence holders were considered part of the workforce and therefore able to access daily remuneration, in addition to diamond winnings.
  • The stipend for health care provision was increased.
  • Surface and Development rights and Licence fees covered for all FPA beneficiaries.

Next up: Programme

Advancing standards and onboarding new artisanal miners to the GemFair programme.


Our Programme

We went into our sixth year of operation with the aim of generating more efficiencies in our ASM Assurance Programme and capitalizing on our learnings to date. One thing that we realized was that in order to scale the GemFair programme, we would need to be more efficient about how we carry out mine site visits and implement our training programming. When we first piloted GemFair, we had to get acquainted with our value chain and our overall risks. Now, after six years on the ground, we are well-acquainted with our operating environment. The risks about which we were most concerned when we started GemFair in 2018—such as child labour, human rights violations, conflict financing and forced labour—are just not things we have observed in Kono’s artisanal diamond mine sites. 

We took the decision to restructure our mine site visit schedule from a minimum of two site visits per year to a sample-based methodology, where at least 25% of our membership will receive a spot check each year, meaning that each GemFair member mine will receive a spot check once every five years on average. We will increase the frequency of mine site visits if a site has a critical corrective action to take, but overall, we found that the spot checks we were conducting were coming back with the same results – we were not observing serious breaches of our standards. 

This shift away from monitoring the performance of every site to a sample-based site visit schedule frees up staff time to focus on onboarding new members and working with miners who need more support to bring their standards up. We are confident that we are keeping with the spirit and intent of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance’s risk-based approach to supply chain engagement and if we observe heightened risks along the way, we will course correct as necessary.  

Our management system

During 2023, the GemFair field team continued intensive work with GemFair members to implement their corrective action plans. The results of our efforts are really encouraging:



Wages are improving at participating mine sites, with mine workers reporting that their wages have increased nearly threefold in the past year. Likewise, workers have reported to us that if they aren’t paid on time, they refuse to work.


Personal protective equipment is being worn and workers are talking about safety issues more openly. There is also a higher awareness of how to behave more safely onsite.
Environmental impact management

Environmental impact management

GemFair ASM members have ceased the practice of throwing used engine oil into the nearest body of water. Instead, each miner stores the oil onsite and GemFair staff pick it up to be disposed of safely.

Of the 331 active mine sites in our programme, 185 sites completed all of their corrective action plans and 126 sites have corrective action plans in progress.

2023 results


Sites participating in GemFair


Individual workers (approx.)


Anti-money laundering checks


Classroom trainings


People trained


Mine site assessments (cuml. since 2018)


Sites received PPE

2022 results


Sites participating in GemFair


Individual workers (approx.)


Anti-money laundering checks


Classroom trainings


People trained


Mine site assessments (cuml. since 2018)


Sites received PPE

Helping artisanal miners get their licenses

GemFair is supporting miners to acquire their licence to operate, and sometimes that means walking miners through the licencing regime. We do this in a couple of ways: Some miners approach us for advice because they have never applied for a mining licence. In this instance, we will walk the individual through the steps of gaining permission from the township, the paramount chief and finally the National Minerals Authority (NMA) and help him or her pay the fees to the right bank accounts. We also work with miners who want to renew their licence, by checking that all their paperwork is in order and following up with the NMA once the application has been submitted.

We’re educating miners about how the licencing process works and we’re helping the chiefdom and government by securing legitimate mining revenue.

Komba, GemFair Outreach Officer

We piloted a new membership category

Since its inception, GemFair has delivered value to artisanal miners through: Empowerment; Fair Value, and; Traceability.
This year we added a fourth value proposition: Inclusion!

Inclusion describes our commitment: to scale our footprint to give the largest number of miners that operate in line with core programme requirements access to our programme benefits.

To deliver this, in 2023, we introduced a tiered membership pilot, which allows miners to engage with GemFair no matter where they are on their journey - from entry-level to best in class. 

Our updated categories are:

FPA members
Full GemFair members that receive financing through our FPA programme
General members
Full GemFair members that access a suite of benefits including tailored training, diamond valuation toolkits, and PPE provision
Pilot membership category
Inclusive new tier that invites entry-level mines to start their journey with GemFair

How the pilot works

Tier 3 encourages miners interested in engaging with our programme to “self-identify” at the point that they would like to sell diamonds to GemFair. 

At this stage we conduct a number of checks:

  • Miner has a full and valid licence
  • Miner passes background checks (World Check)
  • Miner makes declaration that they operate in line with programme core requirements (in line with OECD Due Diligence Guidance)

Once a miner has passed these checks, they are free to sell their diamonds to GemFair – and benefit from the Fair Value we offer! 

Mine sites are then added to our system and are subject to post-transaction baseline assessments and spot-checks on a periodic basis, to ensure that programme requirements continue to be met. 

This approach to due diligence expands the impact of the GemFair programme and gives us a platform to consolidate and further promote our efforts to encourage formalization and continuous improvement across the artisanal diamond sector. 

This membership pilot is giving more miners access to our diamond buying office, where they’re treated with respect, paid immediately for their diamonds and can learn about the wider benefits of becoming a full GemFair member.

Raymond, Location Manager

Tier 3 Members Infographic

Take aways from the pilot

Standards at T3 member sites meet programme entry level requirements and yet could benefit from the support of GemFair to continuously improve their practices. 

New T3 members wanted to work with GemFair as a result of positive testimonies from existing GemFair members and stakeholders. 

T3 members reported receiving the best price available for their diamonds. They also commended immediate payment at the buying office and the professional environment in which they were hosted. 

Many T3 miners want to become full members and some of those have already started their journey through additional standards training. Add numbers  

We extended training to two cooperatives of female diamond miners

During an outreach visit to the Kenema region of Sierra Leone, we met with a women-only artisanal mining cooperative. They expressed an interest in foundational diamond valuation training to help them understand the value of the diamonds they were finding and to enable them to drive a better price. The cooperative felt at a disadvantage in their negotiations with other buyers. GemFair’s aim is to provide educational training and the tools to understand the value of each diamond. Women miners in the diamond sector are also rare, women in artisanal mining are more commonly found in gold.

We arranged a full day training course in GemFair’s office in Koidu, where two buyers and the field team welcomed 8 women from the cooperative and a translator. The course covered the fundamentals of diamond valuation, including the 4 Cs – clarity, colour, cut and carat. This was a practical hands-on day assessing real diamonds for their value.

This provided a good foundation of basic skills for initial diamond valuation, we look forward to building on this training in the future.

The members of the cooperatives feel they have been cheated by the people who buy their diamonds. Before the training, they did not know how to weigh their diamonds, use a hand loupe or determine the estimated yield of their diamonds. Through this training, we are helping the female miners negotiate a better price for their diamonds.

Musa, GemFair Training Officer

Next up: Gemfair of the Future

Advancing standards and onboarding new artisanal miners to the GemFair programme.

Gemfair of the Future

Our collaboration with Tracr

This year, we deepened our partnership with Tracr™ to provide enhanced confidence to our customers that the diamonds they buy lead to positive and lasting impact at the mines and within the mining communities from which they were sourced.

We have co-developed a prototype diamond search tool that hosts our diamond story, from miner to market. In doing so, we are delivering on our Building Forever goals to: (1) connect artisanal miners to responsible international markets and (2) change perspectives on artisanal diamond mining globally – ASM is a source of local development and empowerment for miners, and we are proud to support this story.

*Some of the information and images in these pictures have been changed to protect the anonymity of the subjects

Why is this GemFair - Tracr collaboration important?

GemFair delivers a mine to buying office traceability solution, powered by a bespoke diamond logging App, a tablet, QR-coded bags and a diamond valuation toolkit (including scales, a hand loupe and a ruler). However, regulatory frameworks and customer requirements require us to group our diamonds into larger lots at various stages of the supply chain, at which point the diamond level traceability would be lost.

This is where Tracr comes in. At our buying office we now create 360° videos of our diamonds and upload these to the Tracr platform, where they are reconstructed into digital fingerprints of the diamond. In turn, our clients have the option to do likewise, which provides the basis for stone matching and reconciliation of the diamond story.

We are delighted to announce that GemFair diamonds will be coming to market in 2024 with full supply chain traceability. Watch this space. 

Putting a focus on geological intelligence

GemFair contracted leading geologists from SRK consulting in 2022 to help us develop a better understanding of the geological potential of the areas in which our member sites operate. We hope that by supporting miners with decisions about where they mine, this will give them a greater chance of finding diamonds, thereby positively impacting their livelihoods and contributing to improved diamond supply.This work led to the development of a beta “scorecard”, which, when populated with site specific data helps us to make informed assessments of the likely diamond output across a group of mines in a sample area. 

With a framework in place, we hired a full-time geologist who has been working to collect samples and build a repository of data using the Arc-GIS supported Field Maps survey platform. All data is geo-referenced, which helps identify geological patterns, especially when overlayed with layers from pre-existing studies. 

In 2023 GemFair completed geo-surveys at over 100 mine sites. The data we have collected is weighted and combined with production data (in the case of existing sites) to inform the miner’s work plans and ongoing investment decisions. 

As our knowledge and understanding in this area grows, we will share more details on our approach and findings, in particular, how a robust understanding of the geological context in which artisanal miners operate can contribute to improved miner incomes and enhanced programme sustainability. 


This year was our most significant in terms of scaling our reach in the region as well as our customer base. We only have upward to go, and we’re excited to refine and learn from our membership pilot to make becoming a GemFair member a feasible and desirable choice for Kono’s artisanal diamond miners. In the year ahead, we plan to convert the pilot membership category to an official part of our programme. We also plan to teach the trenching method more widely, to support miners to reclaim their sites, with our financial assistance, where appropriate. Finally, we intend for 2024 to be the year that GemFair assured diamonds become available to jewelers.

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