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Africa: Diamond miners

Page 2 Possible headlines:

Looking for the “big one”

Mining for the “big one”

Searching for treasure

Mining for treasure – on land and in the sea

Mining on land and in the sea

Page 2: African miners (longer caps)


TEXT BLOCK : “CONS” migrant workers / aids / danger

Sideline – DeBeers

The diamond mining industry is where the modern diamond’s story picks up. Companies like DeBeers (SIDEBAR LINK), the world’s largest diamond mining company based in South Africa, spend millions of dollars annually on the most advanced technology to do geological research to find diamond deposits on land and in the sea.

The two different types of diamond deposits – primary deposits and secondary deposits require different mining techniques.  

To recover diamonds that are in primary deposits requires open pit or underground mining where the ore is crushed in order to find the diamonds.

Secondary deposits, also referred to as alluvial deposits, are those that have been dispersed from their original source due to erosion – so they are often found on coastlines, ocean floors, and riverbeds. It requires the excavation of sand and deep sea mining – including drilling into the seabed to find diamond-bearing stones.

With diamond sales over $6 billion in 2005, DeBeers has 15 mines across Africa and is constantly funding geological missions in search of more diamond deposits. Many of their mines are joint ventures with national governments and they produce over 40 percent of the world’s rough diamonds annually.

But, the mining of alluvial diamond deposits still takes place on a more informal scale referred to as “artisanal mining” by the diamond industry. It’s estimated that up to one million people in Africa make a living through small scale mining that entails sifting through sand and gravel, often in riverbeds, with sieves and pans to find diamonds.

The diamond mining industry functions as a result of the search for gem diamonds, as well as diamonds for industrial use. But, part of what fuels the search for diamonds is the elusive search for “the big one.”

To this day, enormous diamonds discoveries are still made – the “Lesotho Promise” - at 603 carats, the biggest diamond discovery in 13 years – was sold at auction in Oct. 2006 for over $12 million. Named for the small African nation where it was found, the diamond was found at the Letseng Diamond Mine by a woman looking through rocks. Click here for a list of the world’s largest diamond discoveries. (SIDEBAR LINK)

SIDEBAR: World’s biggest diamond finds 

The Cullian, weighing is at 3,106 carats uncut (more than a pound), it is the world’s largest gem-quality diamond ever found. It was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and was cut into 11 gems and smaller pieces. Two gems cut from the Cullian – the Great Star of Africa – 530.2 carats – and the Lesser Star of Africa – 317.4 carats are part of the British Crown Jewels on display in the Tower of London.

The second largest diamond ever discovered is The Excelsior, discovered in South Africa in 1893 and weighing in at 995.2 carats. It was reportedly found by a mine worker as he was loading up a truck.

Another one of the world’s largest diamonds became the icon for one of America’s most revered jewelry houses – The Tiffany, a 287.42 carat diamond - was discovered in the Kimberley Mine in South Africa in 1877.

By comparison, the infamous Hope Diamond that is renown for the misfortunes it brought on it’s various owners, seems paltry weighing in at a mere 45.42 carats.