Blood Diamonds: The Conflict in Sierra Leone
History of Diamonds:
The name "diamond" comes from the Greek word, "adamas" meaning unconquerable. Fittingly diamonds are made of pure carbon, and diamonds are the hardest natural substance known to man. Diamonds have long been a sign of wealth and fortune. Kings and queens have worn these forms of concentrated carbon and even more countless millions people over time have lusted after them. These gems can be transparent, truculent white, yellow, green, blue, or brown. To understand the value of these stones, and ultimately their role in war, it helps to first understand their origins and where they come form.
Diamonds are the most frequently used form capital by the rebels in Angola, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo use to purchase weapons. The earliest gem diamonds were found in India and Borneo, were they were found in riverbeds. In the early eighteenth century, deposits similar to those in India were found in Brazil. The story of diamonds in Africa began between December 1866 and February 1867, when a 15-year-old found a transparent stone on his father's farm, on the south bank of the Orange River. Within the next fifteen years, African diamond mines produced more diamonds than the India, the previous leading producer, had in the last 2,000 years. This increase in production occurred at the same time as the diamond mines in Brazil experiences a sharp decline in their production. The depletion of mines in Brazil assured that supply would remain stable and diamond prices would not fall as they previously had when Brazil over produced in the 1730s. Diamonds are the pure form of carbon in a transparent state, that is formed below the surface of the Earth. Over 150 Kilometers below the Earth’s surface in the mantle, diamonds are formed. The diamonds make their way up the surface captured within liquid hot rock or magma. Once they reach the surface diamonds can be found in volcanic pipes called kimberlite pipes or in loose mineral deposits called alluvial deposits. Alluvial deposits are created by diamond pipe erosion and are easily excavated. They require very little financial capital to be invested in the removal. This is due to the fact that they are often found in riverbeds and along the coast and they do not require highly advanced mining techniques nor due they require a large amount of human capital. The simplest method of mining alluvial deposits is with a shovel and a pan. With this method diamonds and soil are shoveled into a hand held pan where they are separated by agitation and shorted by eye. More advanced methods of mining use large machinery that moves the alluvial in to large shorting pans that send different densities to smaller picking tables followed by a grease table. Since diamonds are mostly water repellent, they are sorted in alluvial deposits by using grease. While other minerals develop a water coding and slide of the grease, the water resistant diamonds stick to the grease and are collected. Mining kimberllite pipe requires a more advanced degree of mining technology and is more expensive. The first step in mining a kimberlite pipe is to dig the pit. In "open-pit" or "open-cast" mining, the layers of rock are dug up and eventually tunnels and pipe are build so the hard ore material can be removed with large hydraulic shovels and trucks. The hard rock is broken into pieces with shovels and other methods until the rock is small enough to be remove from the mine by truck. When the kimberlite ore is deep underground it must be removed by mining a series of underground shafts in the pipe that allow the ore to be carved off and make its way down the tunnel to a draw point. At these points the crushed ore is brought up to the surface for processing. Only about 20% of the world's diamonds are taken from pipe mines, and the remaining 80% of diamonds are alluvial.
In 1866, the first diamonds in...
Bibliography: Campbell, Greg. Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World’s Most Precious Stones. New York: Westview Press, 2003.
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