The Challenge of Small-Scale Diamond Mining in South Africa

Excitement builds as new model takes shape for fostering collaboration between mine owners and local communities
The Challenge of Small-Scale Diamond Mining in South Africa

Anticipation fills the air as two young miners accompany their sorting supervisor into a modest tin-roofed structure perched atop a mound at the Baken mine. Marked by a sign proclaiming it the "Communal Artisanal Miners Diamond Jig Sorting House," the space represents the culmination of their day's work, where they eagerly await the results of their labor. Despite its unassuming appearance, supervisor David Venter reassures that security measures are in place, with surveillance cameras discreetly observing the room. Inside, a fellow worker empties a sieve onto a table, revealing gravel washed clean for the miners to meticulously sift through, hoping to uncover a precious diamond. However, luck doesn't always favor them, as Venter explains the unpredictable nature of their finds, ranging from sizable discoveries to periods of dry spells.

Ensuring transparency and fairness, Marius Coetzee, general manager at Lower Orange River Diamonds (LOR), emphasizes the importance of involving the miners throughout the entire process, from pit to sorting house. Each miner is promptly compensated for any valuable stones they unearth, with an estimated sum paid on the spot and adjustments made if the stone fetches a higher price at auction. Working in teams within demarcated areas of the mine, known as communal artisanal miners (CAMs), these individuals employ traditional methods using basic tools to extract diamonds from gravel. Through reinvestment of their earnings, many CAMs have improved their equipment, enhancing their productivity and livelihoods. Katleen, a CAM team leader, speaks of the significance of their work in providing for their families, recalling past successes and remaining hopeful for future discoveries.

LOR envisions its CAM project as a model for fostering collaboration between mine owners and local communities, offering employment and skill-building opportunities in regions where such prospects are limited. Situated along South Africa's west coast, near the border with Namibia, Baken boasts a landscape of rugged beauty, renowned for its diamond-rich terrain and stark coastal vistas. Operating within a region steeped in diamond mining history, Baken represents a continuation of this legacy, with LOR streamlining administrative processes to support both junior miners and CAMs alike.

As the Baken mine stands as a testament to the enduring allure of diamond mining in South Africa, it serves as a reminder of the untapped potential that lies within the earth's depths, waiting to be unearthed by those willing to brave its challenges.

Diamond World