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Russell Simmons to tour African mines
Russell Simmons is planning to visit Africa to tour diamond mines and factories. Simmons sets out this month for South Africa and Botswana on a fact-finding mission as he starts the Diamond Empowerment Fund to teach Africans how to cut and polish diamonds rather than simply mining them. "We want more of black Africans to become executives," the 49-year-old hip-hop mogul told the Daily News in Friday's editions. "The diamond industry should be the leader of African empowerment."Most African diamonds are cut by people in Belgium and Israel. Simmons said he makes "a lot of money" working with diamond giant De Beers on his line of jewelry. De Beers produces about 40 percent of the world's supply of rough diamonds from its mines in South Africa, and in partnership with the governments of Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania, according to its website. The company, which had $6.5 billion in revenue in 2005, claims the diamond industry has a "zero tolerance" policy toward conflict diamonds. Simmons isn't the only figure in hip-hop highlighting the African diamond trade. On his latest CD, Kanye West featured the song "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" in which he criticized profits from conflict diamonds. Conflict diamonds have long fueled Africa's wars, with fighting forces selling the gems to raise funds for weapons. The issue is also getting attention outside of hip-hop. Next month, "Blood Diamond," a new film featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, will be released. The movie shows how "blood diamonds" financed civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s.

-- The Associated Press

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