Diamond Mining is a risky venture. First, a diamond mining company must locate a diamond deposit. A lot of diamond mines are located in 3rd world countries and due to the potential profitability that diamond mines bring in, the government of the countries demand a hefty premium to set up shop. A map of common areas in which diamond deposits is shown in Figure 2.1(Diamond Map, 2015)
As one can see, the majority of diamond mining countries are situated in Africa. Once a deposit is found, the next step is minning. There are five main types of diamond mining : Artisanal Mining, Hard Rock Mining, Marine Mining, Open Pit Mining, and Placer Mining.
Artisanal mining is the most basic and primitive form of diamond mining. It involves very little technology and equipment to get started but requires a lot of hard work and takes a long time. Diamond Diggers are employed and they work with their hands, shovels, and sieves to work through the rocks and minerals to find the diamonds. This form of diamond mining is typically used by poorer African countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Angola, and the Congo. The film “Blood Diamonds” dramatises the excavation process in the Western African countries. This type of diamond mining accounts for more than 90% of Sierra Leone’s diamond exports and is the second largest employer of people in the country. The social impact is that diamond mining provides jobs, but the jobs require a lot of hard work and has human rights advocates worried about the harsh work conditions.Part of the artisanal mining process is shown in Figure 2.2(Artisanal Diamond Mining, 2015)
Hard Rock Mining
Hard Rock Mining consists of building tunnels in which miners create underground rooms held up by rock. The miners use specialized equipment to cut into the rock and then use drillers and excavators to break up and transfer the rock and diamonds up to the surface. This method is useful when the diamond deposits are deep within the earth and cannot be accessed from the surface. Hard Rock Mining is very “earth intensive” and requires the miners to work very deep into the earth. A type of Hard Rock Mining is shown in Figure 2.3 (Hard Rock Mining, 2015)
Marine Mining, as the name suggests, is a form of diamond mining that is used in offshore placer deposits. It is a relatively new form of mining and has only been used since the 1990’s. There are two different types of marine mining, Vertical and Horizontal.
Vertical Marine mining uses a large drill bit to cut into the seabed and sucks up diamond containing material through a hose. A large ship carries the equipment and diamonds back to the ship for further processing. An illustration of vertical diamond mining is shown in Figure 2.4 (Vertical Marine Mining, 2015)
Horizontal Marine Mining uses Seabed Crawlers, remote controlled mining vehicles, to run across the seafloor and pump up diamond containing gravel to the ship. Another illustration is shown in Figure 2.5 (Horizontal Marine Mining, 2015)
Open Pit Mining
Open Pit Mining is a diamond extraction technique that requires a large hole to be made into the earth, then the diamonds are mined from the pit. It is really useful when the diamond deposits are located near the surface of the earth and the surface material is thin. It is also useful when tunneling and Hard Rock mining are not feasible due to unstable earth. The ecological consequences of this mining technique are large if the mining company does not restore the open pit to the original state. This method is used for Kimberlite and Lamproite diamond deposits due to the conical nature of the deposits. This method is largely used in diamond deposits in Russia and Siberia. A picture of an Open Pit mine is shown in figure 2.6(Open Pit Mining, 2015)
Placer Mining is the least earth invasive form of diamond mining. Diamonds and minerals are brought to the surface by injecting high pressured water into the earth and forcing the rocks up. No tunnels are used, but it still requires a hole in the earth. Once the rocks are brought to the surface, special excavating equipment and hand sorting are used to find the diamonds. A diagram of this type of mining is shown in Figure 2.7. (Placer Diamond Mining, 2015)
These diamond mining techniques are used to bring diamonds from the earth and then undergo further processing by sorting and cutting.
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