Diamonds occur naturally deep inside the earth. They are carried to the earth's surface through volcanic activity that creates what are called 'kimberlite pipes'. Kimberlite is the cooled volcanic rock and is what diamonds are extracted from. Each year, over 150 million carats of diamonds are mined from the earth. To find one carat of diamond, many tons of earth need to be removed and processed.
Creating awareness of labor and environmental issues during mining, cutting and manufacturing is certainly important when buying mined diamonds, though even carefully sourced mined diamonds still have a large environmental impact. Laboratory grown diamonds on the other hand only use a modest amount of electricity and resources. All of our diamonds are hand-cut in Antwerp by skilled laborers and all D.NEA jewelry is manufactured from recycled metals.
Open Pit & Underground Mines
Open pit, or strip mine, and underground mines are the two most common types of diamond mines. Each mine is located on or around a kimberlite pipe. All of the 'overburden', or normal sand and soil must first be removed to reach the diamond-bearing kimberlite. In some cases, this includes removing entire lakes and ecosystems to reach the kimberlite. Explosives and very large machinery remove and process thousands of tons of material each day. This material is usually processed with very water-intensive extraction methods to remove the diamonds. The waste rock is disposed nearby, disrupting much more land area than the size of the pit itself.
The Finsch mine near Kimberley, South Africa is over 1,750 feet wide and over 1,000 feet deep.
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Diamonds secondarily accumulate in river and lake beds. This is due to sediment and erosion moving over thousands of years from their original kimberlite pipes. The most common alluvial mining occurs along southwest Africa. These operations scrape away 3.3 million cubic yards of 'overburden', soil and plant life per day and build large walls to divert the natural flow of water.
This method of mining is a lower impact yet labor-intensive process where workers use simple shovels and sieves to pan through rivers. While it is the lowest environmental impact, it has the highest labor issues.
When a diamond mine is exhausted, the procedures for closing the mine is unregulated and little infrastructure is in place to restore the ecosystem. The extracted material is not always replaced, or not replaced properly, leaving the former ecosystem unable to restore itself. These open mines and millions of tons of processed material cause many problems with water pollution and leaves the land unsuitable for farming or other uses, susceptible to severe erosion and flooding.
In northern mines, namely Canadian and Russian, the damage to the permafrost causes the surroundings to repair itself very slowly, if at all.
Gold & Platinum Mining
Modern gold mining uses open-pit techniques similar to diamonds. Millions of tons of rock are extracted per day and crushed into a slurry. Cyanide, a highly toxic compound, is added to the slurry to extract gold from the rock. After the gold is removed from the slurry, the cyanide can mobilize other metals such as mercury. The waste can be dumped into nearby lakes and streams, contaminating ecosystems and water supplies. One ton of enriched ore can produce one to two troy ounces of gold, with less enriched ore taking upwards of 80 tons to produce one try ounce, depending on the concentration of gold in the ore.
Platinum is mined primarily underground, so there is less impact to the surface area above the mine. Separating the platinum group metals from the ore is a less toxic process than gold, though still uses reagents such as copper sulfate. Further in the refining process, chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and chlorine gas are used to separate the platinum from other group metals such as gold and palladium. Platinum is thirty times more rare than gold. Enriched ore can take ten to twenty or more tons to produce one troy ounce of platinum, with less enriched ore taking hundreds of tons to produce one troy ounce. Ore containing platinum also contains other valuable minerals such as gold, copper, nickel, palladium, cobalt and other metals than can also be extracted during the process.
While the initial mining aspects are harmful to the environment, there are acceptable alternatives to newly mined metals. Since all precious metals have an intrinsic value, they are rarely discarded. All precious metals can be refined back into their pure elements and made into new jewelry with no degradation in quality. D.NEA's line of jewelry and rings
is available in eco-friendly platinum, 18kt gold and silver
D.NEA understands the ecological impacts of the jewelry industry and are doing our part to help. All of our jewelry is not only made from origin-guaranteed lab-created diamonds and eco-friendly metals, but is also presented in eco-friendly packaging.
Our jewelry is beautifully showcased in rubberwood boxes. Rubberwood is a sustainable tree cultivated for its natural latex. At the end of its latex-producing life, the high-quality wood is harvested and the land replanted. The interior of the box cushions and protects your jewelry with a recycled suede. The signature blue D.NEA outer box is made from recycled paperboard.
Loose diamonds float in a window box made of recyclable plastic, with a recycled paperboard outer box.