Diamonds, with their mesmerizing allure and unique attributes, continue to captivate mankind. There exist two types of authentic diamonds – those that are mined from the earth and those that are lab-created. While both are genuine diamonds, their formation process differs significantly.
An intriguing question that often baffles many is: How are diamonds mined?
Unearthing these precious stones involves an intricate, costly process that combines elements of engineering, science, art, patience, and sheer hard work. Mining diamonds is a practice that varies based on the depth of the diamond’s location within the earth’s crust.
Diamond Mining Techniques
A variety of methods are employed to mine diamonds, determined largely by the depth of the gem and the resources available for the extraction process. Some techniques are more expensive or time-consuming than others, influencing the choice of method.
Here’s a brief exploration of the most commonly used mining techniques:
1) Open Pit Mining
Also known as the open-cast method, open pit mining is the most widely used diamond extraction technique. This method involves careful consideration of factors such as the strength of the rock and the type of equipment at disposal.
In open pit mining, layers of earth are carved away, with new layers created immediately beneath the removed ones. The result is a large pit with circular layers linked by roads.
Meticulous geometric precision is crucial in maintaining the safety and stability of the mine, ensuring the correct width and height of each layer. The initial stages of the mine are comparatively flat and become progressively steeper with each mining operation. Once the diamond-rich material is extracted, it’s brought to the surface for further selection and sifting.
2) Underground Mining
When an open pit becomes perilously steep, it not only poses a risk to safety but also becomes prohibitively expensive to mine further using this method. Underground mining is the way forward when such conditions arise or when diamonds have been brought close to the earth’s surface through volcanic activity.
Upon pinpointing the location of diamonds, miners construct meticulously planned artificial tunnels and pipes. Underground mining encompasses two techniques: block caving and tiered mining.
Block caving involves blasting blocks of rock, causing the ore to break and cave under its weight. This is a cost-effective method compared to others.
3) Alluvial Mining
Diamonds can also be found closer to the surface when volcanic activity occurs deep within the ocean. For alluvial mining, prospectors wait for these diamonds, located near the earth’s surface, to be washed down riverbeds and onto beaches. These precious gems are typically brought to the surface through erosion, carried along by powerful winds and waves.
This technique was quite common in India between the 9th century BC and the 19th century AD.
In alluvial mining, barriers are erected to contain the soil and water in areas identified as rich in diamond deposits. The sand is collected and transported to a processing plant, where it’s meticulously sifted until the sparkling diamonds are unearthed.
4) Marine Mining
Marine mining is the most recent advancement in diamond extraction technology. This method employs both vertical and horizontal techniques to unearth diamonds from the seabed.
In this process, a drill skull with a diameter of about 7 meters is used to cut and suction the diamond-rich material, which is then pumped to the earth’s surface for the recovery of the precious stones.
Marine mining utilizes crawler-like technology and creates a vacuum using compressed air. Before the advent of this technology, divers-operated equipment was used, but such methods could only reach a depth of about 30 meters.
The formation of diamonds is a process that spans billions of years, and their extraction isn’t a simple task either. As we’ve discussed, there are primarily four methods used to mine diamonds.
We hope this article has shed light on the question that might crop up when you marvel at the diamonds at your favorite jewelry store.
Keen to know more about diamonds and how to find the perfect one? Then you’ll certainly enjoy reading this guide.