The Lifecycle Of A Diamond: The Environmental Impact
Now that we’ve looked at the process of getting the diamond from the mine into your jewelry, let’s take a look at how that process impacts the environment.
The mining industry is the fifth-largest industry in the world. And it plays an important role in the growth and development of a nation. Where diamonds are mined, roads, railways, and towns are built to accommodate the people working there. Mining and its related industries “are critical for the socio-economic development of a country”. However, taking a look at diamond mines specifically, we can see that there are significant negative impacts on the environment that come from the creation and the running of these mines.
Impact on Wildlife - Fast Facts
In the creation of a mine, miners often disturb bodies of water, forests, and plant life which can have a major impact on various eco-systems. Here are some fast facts:
- Bathurst caribou living near the Ekati mine in Canada declined from 400,000 to 128,000 between the 1980s and 2006.
- The process of crushing Kimberlite rock produces a chemical that is deadly for fleas. When the rock is processed and the chemical is released, fleas die and other insects and small animals that feed on fleas die too, impacting a whole ecosystem.
- Mines can affect water quality even at a far range: Snap Lake, which is 124 miles away from Lac de Gras (near the Ekati mine in Canada) experienced irreversible changes to its water quality as well as its ecosystem.
Geo-Location of Diamond Mines
The biggest diamond mines in the world can be found in Russia, Canada, Botswana, Australia, and South Africa and the environmental effects of the mine depend on the location. Cold climate diamond mines in Russia and Canada are located in remote areas where the freezing weather makes the mining conditions difficult. For one thing, the mining companies must be able to adequately heat the facilities their workers live and work in, and, for another, because of the remoteness of the mines and poor weather conditions, getting materials to and from the mines must be done by trucks which have to cross thousands of miles of icy roads. The Canadian mines alone produce 124 kg of CO2 emissions and consume 9 liters of fuel for each carat of diamond mined.
Moving Land to Make a Mine
Most experts agree that the most significant impact of diamond mining is the land disturbances done to build a diamond mine. In order to create an open-pit or underground mine, large amounts of sand and soil need to be removed so that miners can reach the Kimberlite pipes. As digging continues, surplus waste rock, sand, soil, and processed Kimberlite accumulate in the surrounding area and need to be managed and rehabilitated.
Mining in the ocean and in inland bodies of water requires the removal of social and plant life before the mining can actually begin. Sea walls also need to be constructed in some areas. Once the mining operation is finished, the sea walls need to be removed, the soil and plant life returned, and the surrounding area needs to be tended to as sand and soil is often moved due to the movement of the water.
How the Diamond Mining Industry is Trying to Change
Any environmentalist will tell you there is no such thing as a conflict-free diamond. While many people are aware of the humanitarian impact of diamond mining, less is known about the environmental impact. However, as younger generations become the biggest diamond consumers, they educate themselves more on how this industry impacts the environment. Because of this, many major diamond retailers and mining companies are making an effort to curb their impact.
According to its website, Tiffany & Co. was the first global luxury jeweler to disclose the countries where their new diamonds are sourced in 2020. They pride themselves on responsibly sourcing their diamonds as well as supporting the local communities where the diamonds are mined and processed.
One thing that has changed diamond mining for the better is the ISO 14001, an international standard “designed to promote and guide an environmental management approach”. Because of this set of standards, diamond companies regularly publish reports on their environmental performance and can more easily be held responsible for their impact.
As time goes on, diamond mining companies are becoming increasingly aware of how their processes affect the environment and are working to dull these effects. It’s an imperfect system, however, the more aware consumers are, the more change can be made.
Make a Change When You Buy a Diamond
If you are looking to purchase a diamond and want to make a sustainable choice, choose a recycled diamond. For each recycled diamond you purchase, you keep one diamond in the mine and save hundreds of pounds of CO2 from being released and thousands of liters of water from being used. Diamonds hold a lot of environmental power so remember to make the sustainable choice when you buy a diamond from Worthy.