Since 2007, the USGS has been supporting the U.S. Department of State (DoS), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Kimberley Process (KP) to stem the flow of conflict diamonds into the international market. The Kimberley Process (KP) is a joint government, industry, and civil society initiative to prevent "conflict diamonds" (rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments) from entering the mainstream rough diamond market. The KP was established in 2003 with support of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/56 mainly in response to several civil wars in Africa, which had been financed through the mining and trade in rough diamonds. The USGS provides technical assistance by using satellite and aerial imagery to remotely monitor small-scale diamond mining activities in western and central Africa. This imagery is paired with on-the-ground field data collection and digital terrain modeling to achieve a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the geologic, social, and economic contexts of mining areas of interest. This work focuses on assessing changes and identifying trends in the informal small-scale diamond mining sector over time, with the overarching goal of preventing diamonds from being used to fund conflicts against legitimate governments.
Remote sensing techniques enable the USGS to map and monitor diamond mining deposits and their activity level at very high resolution, and have proven to be an invaluable tool for assessing deposits located in conflict zones or in remote and challenging terrain. Furthermore, these techniques enable repeat assessments to be conducted at varying temporal frequencies. The data that are collected are analyzed and provided to the DoS, USAID, and KP and often represent the best available information on mining activities within a particular area of interest.
A comparison of oblique aerial photography and a WorldView-2 satellite image, showing [A, B] inactive mine pits that have filled with water, [C] a recently abandoned pit, [D, E] large active pits, and [F] a cluster of small exploration pits.