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Sea diamonds

By: Floro Mercene

NAMIBIA, officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. Namibia is the fifth largest diamond producing nation in the world.

Diamond mining in Namibia dates back to 1908 when a rail worker accidentally discovered a diamond in an ancient beach terrace at Kolmanskop station near Lűderitz. This discovery sparked a diamond rush and by 1913 the onshore Namibian diamond fields accounted for 20% of world diamond production.

The deposits onshore near Lűderitz, however, were soon depleted. Lűderitz is currently a town that mostly benefits from tourism to the ghost towns left behind in the desert.

All diamonds are created deep in the earth’s crust at very high temperatures and under incredibly high pressure. As magma works its way to the surface through deep fractures it sometimes traps diamonds within it. The magma is very low in silica and after it erupts and cools, it forms kimberlite rocks. The pipe or dyke represents the conduit that brought the diamonds to the surface. These eruptions were short, but many times more powerful than volcanic eruptions that happen today. Kimberlite pipes are only found in areas of rock that are at least 2.5 billion years old. Majority of these pipes were formed during two episodes in the Cretaceous Period. The first occurred between 125 and 115 million years ago, the second between 90 and 80 million years ago.

For over a century, open-pit diamond mines are gradually being exhausted, and experts predict that production might cease by 2050.

Starting as early as 1958, people have been exploring the seabed for alluvial diamonds. At first the operations consisted of diver operated sediment excavation in water shallower than 35 meters. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when technology was developed for deeper water large scale marine diamond mining and not until the 1990’s when the industry began to take shape.

(To be continued)