Do you research the origins and mining practices of the gemstones in the jewelry you plan to buy? They can only be retrieved through mining, and this procedure almost invariably leaves a trail of devastation and destruction in its wake, leading to some environmental impacts of diamond mining.
There has never been a better opportunity to make investments in ethical diamond solutions that offer workers and communities safe, sustainable mining practices.
Table of Contents
The Diamond Mining Process
Diamond mining doesn’t include the use of chemicals, unlike other mining methods (like the cyanidation of gold). The four processes for mining diamonds carry the following significant short- and long-term dangers even though there is little associated environmental harm:
1. Open Pit Mining
In open pit mining, the ore beneath is first blasted after layers of rock and dirt are removed. The unprocessed material is placed onto trucks and driven to a crushing facility.
2. Underground Mining
Deep below the earth’s crust, two levels of tunnels are excavated and joined by funnels, a process is sometimes known as “hard rock mining.” Ore falls and lands in the second tunnel when it is blasted in the first. It is then grabbed by the hand and brought to the top.
3. Marine Diamond Mining
This method of mining for diamonds, which is among the most recent mining innovations, attaches crawlers to ships to collect seabed gravel that would subsequently be processed. Naturally, this only happens in nations with access to water.
4. Alluvial (Artisanal) Mining
Since alluvial diamonds are frequently discovered in numerous beds, industrial mining of them is essentially impossible. Small-scale diamond extraction is therefore often carried out by hand, frequently without regulation.
Environmental Impacts of Diamond Mining
As demand grows, mining expands to distant locations, resulting in soil erosion, deforestation, forced migration, and the extinction of numerous animal species (all of which are delicately intertwined).
1. Soil Erosion
Soil erosion is the washing away of the outermost layer of the Earth’s crust, and certainly, with a process like diamond mining, in which layers of the soil are removed to reach out for the gemstone underground, soil erosion would be prevalent if not controlled.
Nevertheless, soil erosion would occur if the mining site has been abandoned or no actions are taken to handle the aftereffects of diamond mining.
2. Land Disturbances
Just like other forms of mining, diamond mining poses a threat to the land and its inhabitants. Diamond mining can lead to land disturbances like landslides, tremors, and even earthquakes. Why is that? Well, it’s because the earth is being disturbed to access the precious stone.
Deforestation is what happens at a mining site before the mining process begins properly. Most of these natural resources are located in areas covered by trees, and to access them, these trees have to be taken out of the way.
But these actions adversely affect the environment in many ways. The worst is if after the diamond supply is exhausted and the land is not rehabilitated by trees, there lies a world of effects that affect the ecosystem.
In Sierra Leone, areas that had previously been mined were thought to be permanently destroyed, but ecosystem restoration is becoming a more common method for repairing damaged ecosystems. On their initiative, private residents have planted trees, filled in trenches, and recovered topsoil.
4. Water Use
Water is scarce in many places in Africa, where diamond mining businesses frequently operate, so it seems reasonable that there would be some impact on their water supplies. Diamond mining employs water rather than chemicals for extraction.
However, it’s important to highlight that the diamond mining procedure utilizes as little energy as possible and does not contaminate natural water sources. The sector makes every effort to save water through reduction, recovery, reuse, and recycling.
Strict usage goals are set and closely monitored, and recovery and recycling programs are implemented. Alternative water sources are also being researched.
5. Alters the Course of Waterways
To uncover treasures beneath riverbeds, diamond mining firms can figuratively alter the flow of rivers and/or construct dams.
This action upsets entire ecosystems: since animals and people (particularly farmers) have relied on these streams for millennia, they must search elsewhere for food and shelter when the water is gone.
6. Water Pollution
Additionally, water pollution from diamond mining may have an impact on residents’ health. If the mining pits or sites are closed down, this will take place.
As diamond reserves are depleted and formerly rich cropland is stripped of its topsoil, uninhabitable pits are left behind.
A catastrophe for public health would also result from this. The holes become infested with mosquitoes and spread diseases like malaria and other water-borne illnesses when they fill up with standing rainfall.
Waterborne viruses, parasites, and mosquitoes thrive in stagnant water, which poses a serious health danger to populations during the rainy seasons.
Along the Odzi River in Zimbabwe, there have been complaints of animal deaths and human illnesses. According to environmentalists, dense medium separation procedures release the hazardous chemical ferrosilicon.
7. Impact on Biodiversity
The environment may be threatened by human activity. the requirement for the coexistence of many plant and animal species. Around the world, diamond mining occurs in a wide range of settings, from Africa to Canada.
Diamond mines can be found throughout Africa, including in the Namib Desert, the African Savannah (in southern Africa), the Karoo Biome (in South Africa), and the Benguela Maritime Habitat (in Namibia).
Diamond mining activities pose a threat to the biodiversity in these areas. The biodiversity is being altered because of not just diamond mining but also, other forms of mining as the land is stripped, exposing sensitive creatures to harsh conditions.
Because of this, some of these species might die or migrate, leading to biodiversity loss. Some of the species might be able to adapt to these conditions, but they won’t be the same anymore as they might be forced to consume things they are not used to.
This would certainly lead to a distortion in the ecosystem and, consequently, ecosystem destruction.
8. Energy Use and Emissions
Electricity and fossil fuels are the two types of energy used in diamond exploration and mining (diesel, marine gas, oil, and petrol). The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is a by-product of both electricity and hydrocarbon energy (a naturally occurring gas).
These are released into the atmosphere and result in a variety of environmental issues, such as pollution and climate change, which endanger both human health and the ecosystem.
The release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over a specific area and time is referred to in this sense as an “emission.” Emissions can refer to any substance released as a byproduct of industrial or commercial activity outside of this context.
Global warming is merely one aspect of climate change, which is also known as climate change.
Diamond mines produce wastes similar to those of any other major industrial facility, such as oil, paper, scrap metal, batteries, tires, and minor amounts of plastic and glass.
The diamond industry continues to research ways to reduce waste, increase reuse (for example, in the case of tires used for things like road marking), and recycle as part of its efforts to ensure that all types of waste are monitored and minimized (e.g., scrap metal).
To guarantee proper disposal and recycling, for instance, waste materials are categorized at the mine. The recovery and recycling of oil and grease have recently received special attention.
However, at Namdeb, some used oil is recycled right away at the mine site. Used oil is often transported off-site for recycling.
Environmental Impacts of Diamond Mining – FAQs
What waste is produced when mining diamonds?
When mining diamonds, the valuable ore is sorted out of the waste during the mining process for diamonds and the waste is known as tailings or overburden. The tailings from diamond mines are often a slurry made up of silts and sands that are transported outside of the site by pipes.
Is diamond mining environmentally friendly?
No diamond is not environmentally friendly as they are many negative effects of diamond mining on the environment which are soil erosion, deforestation, and ecosystem devastation.
This should make us consider our ever-growing drive to have these gemstones, as the process from discovery to delivery is not an environmentally friendly one.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.