Peter Chirico (pictured above advising officials in Côte d’Ivoire) is a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has worked to understand how the exploitation of diamonds and other natural resources contributes to the funding of conflicts. Chirico serves as scientific and technical advisor to the State Department of State’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

Dazzling Minerals Can Have a Darker Side

There are components of things we depend on every day that are made from minerals and metals mined all over the world—from toothpaste and cosmetics . . . to cell phones . . . to the jewelry and luxury goods we own.”

—Peter Chirico, U.S. Geological Survey

Terrorist organizations and other armed groups can derive their funding from illegally mined minerals such as gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten, many of which are essential ingredients in everyday technology products. Perhaps the most well-known source of such illegal mineral wealth is conflict diamonds, also known as “blood diamonds.”

Increasingly, consumers are asking questions about the origins of diamonds and other minerals and whether they have been mined responsibly. To support responsible sourcing and ensure ongoing prosperity in the mineral trade, American diplomats and scientific experts work closely with governments, international organizations, and the business community to sever the links between mineral resources and armed conflicts.

This includes active American participation in the Kimberley Process, an international certification scheme named for the South African city in which initial organizing meetings took place in 2000. The Kimberley Process regulates the international trade of rough diamonds and builds support for due diligence guidelines that promote conflict-free supply chains for all minerals.

Handful of rough diamonds

Handful of rough diamonds on loan from National Museum of Natural History

Diamonds in the Rough
Rough, uncut, unpolished diamonds like these are often used by rebel groups to finance military action against legitimate and internationally recognized governments. Kimberley Process Certificates confirm that rough diamonds have not benefited these groups.