How Are Diamonds Mined?
What is a diamond?
A diamond is made of highly organized carbon and is one of the hardest substance found in nature. For a diamond to be created naturally, extremely high temperature and pressure is required. Geologists believe that the process involves deeply buried carbon which is heated to around 1200 degrees Celsius. The heated carbon is then put under immense pressure of approximately 320,000 kilograms per square inch and is then quickly pushed up towards the surface of the earth to cool by a volcanic eruption.
Naturally occurring diamonds must be found and mined. In order to find them, geologists use various tools and techniques to determine where to start their mining.
Using Termites to Find Diamonds
A very unique method geologists use involves termites to locate kimberlitic pipes. When building their mounds, termites dig up all kinds of rocks and minerals from deep underground, which can reveal the presence of diamonds.
Reaching the Diamonds
Mining kimberlitic pipes is a complicated process, which involves blasting the rocks in order to reach the diamonds at the bottom. This is called “pit mining” and is a common method consisting of heavy machinery, trucks, and hydraulic shovels. When the diamonds are near the surface or in cases where they are not deeply buried, a method called “open pit mining” is used in which only the surface is mined.
When the diamonds are buried deep in the kimberlitic pipe, it is called “underground mining”. The tools and techniques used in this method vary depending on the size, shape, and even nature of the kimberlitic deposit.
Oceanic Diamond Mining
Diamonds are not only found on dry land, they can also be mined in the ocean using what is called “horizontal and vertical marine mining”. Horizontal marine mining involves flexible hoses that move on the ocean floor and pull the diamonds up, while vertical marine mining uses a drill with a wider diameter to reach deeper into the ocean.
Generally, diamonds are found in greater number and quality in the ocean, but the mining process is more difficult. In order to mine the diamonds, the ocean floor must be dredged and the dirt is brought up to the mining ship where it is sifted for diamonds.
Alluvial (Sifting) Mining
Alluvial mining is for diamonds that have reached the surface of the earth and have been carried away by nature over the years to river beds. The process is also used to find gold and involves sifting through sand, mud, gravel, and dirt, with various tools or even one’s bare hands. Very simple tools and equipment are involved in this method and it is usually done by small-scale miners. This method is quite primitive and involves hundreds of workers scattered along river beds using manual filtering tools to slowly sift through the dirt.
Courtesy of Moti Israeli Diamonds