Diamonds are one of the most expensive stones in the world, and with good reason. The conditions that produce the kimberlite or lamproite pipes are rare, the stones themselves are rare even when the conditions are right for them to be produced. Sometimes not even great finds are enough to even out the balance sheet. The work is hazardous for those in the mines – which is among the most dangerous of professions. Technology has become the backbone of the diamond mining industry as the mining companies seek ways to bring more diamonds to light.
The second largest diamond on record is a 1,111 carat gem quality stone from Lucara’s Karowe mine in Botswana. The stone was recovered by some brand new machines called Large Diamond Recovery XRT machines. It looks as if the investment paid off handsomely with the 65mm x 56mm x 40mm stone. These machines x-ray the ore, kind of like an x-ray machine at airport security. This process helps companies find diamonds that might remain unfound.
Underground, no matter how well the mine is dug and operated, is still a dangerous place for the fragile human body. Rio Tinto is testing out robot trucks that load, travel, and then dump the ore all by themselves. These are massive 231.5 ton trucks that are 27 feet wide and 51 feet long! These self-driving trucks can avoid obstacles, communicate with each and avoid each other are actually controlled by computer from Rio Tinto’s headquarters in Perth.
Conflict diamonds are the dirty secret of the diamond trade, but drone technology is helping to map what are called “artisanal diamond mines” in Western Guinea. These small scale miners are often very poor, and working and subsisting on what they can pull from alluvial deposits or dangerously unstable self-dug or abandoned mines. Miners can include children or even trafficked persons who are forced to work in these small claims. These diamonds are often sold into informal networks outside of the Kimberly Process, and very hard to track. Using drones to map these sites allows government to outreach to those working these sites, registering their claims, and reducing conflict with mining companies, as well as keeping diamonds out of the hands of terror groups and warlords.
Super Diamond Sucker
Off the shore of Namibia there are billions of carats in diamonds thought to be resting on the bottom of the ocean. These alluvial diamonds have washed downstream and out to sea over tens of thousands of years. While offshore diamond mining is not new, the technology of diamond super suckers can operate at up to 300 feet deep! Paired with drilling ships, the ships can pull enough from the ocean floor to bring in big profits and lost stones buried under the muck and gravel for millennia. There are new innovations every year to make finding stones and bringing them to light more efficiently, more ecologically sound, and safer for everyone.
For more information on diamond mines see the link below: