Diamonds are a naturally occurring stone, but unlike the image you might have in your mind of a frontiersman panning for gold in wild west, diamond mining is much more of a high tech science than a speculators bonanza. Before we get into how exactly diamonds are recovered from the earth, it is interesting to note that of all the diamonds mined each year, a surprisingly small amount, about 50% are high enough quality to turn into jewelry.
Types of Diamond Mining
There are two common types of commercial diamond mining, Kimberlite Pipe Mining and Alluvial Mining.
Kimberlite Pipe Diamond Mining
This process is how diamonds are extracted from volcanic ash, otherwise known as Kimberlite. The pipe refers to the fact that Kimberlite naturally occurs in vertical structures, hence the tube moniker. A large area of land is excavated, using large hydraulic shovels, and all of this material is sorted through to find any diamonds. It is the depth at which the earth creates Kimberlite that is believed to be the reason that so many diamonds travel to the earth’s surface in their pipes.
Alluvial Diamond Mining
This process is much more like the panning for gold depicted in movies. Rivers and streams can carry diamonds which have been brought to the earth’s surface through a Kimberlite pipe, and deposit them somewhere downstream. At this point they are rather easy to find, although alluvial mining can be done on a large industrial scale with a large amount of automation, but it is often done on a small scale as well, due to the large geographic area diamonds can be carried via flowing water.