While most people who buy diamonds do so with good intentions, what they do not know is that they might be indirectly supporting crime, violence, and the economic and environmental devastation in the countries where these diamonds are mined. This is what makes lab-grown diamonds the superior alternative both financially and morally. This article will discuss the destructive effects of mined diamonds and why a buyer with a social conscience needs to consider lab-grown diamonds.
The Many Effects of Mining Diamonds
Children are considered a cheap source of labour in some impoverished countries and
are readily exploited. Due to this, kids form a significant part of the mining workforce. A survey done in Angola’s Lunda Norte province on diamond miners revealed that up to 46 percent of the labour force consisted of kids aged between 5-16. Life for children trapped in those mines is something most of us will never experience. These children work entire days, seven days a week. With their still relatively weak bodies, they are more prone to getting injured during accidents. Nonetheless, they are still required to take on hard tasks such as digging using heavy shovels and carrying dirt on their backs. To take advantage of their small stature, they are often asked to enter narrow shafts or pits where the risk of a landslide is always looming. Most of these kids do not attend school. As such, they are condemned to remain miners for the rest of their lives.
Even though a significant percentage of the world’s diamonds are derived from simple mining techniques such as digging or panning, the wages that these miners are paid do not remotely reflect the work that they put in. In fact, it is estimated that over one million diamond miners in Africa take home less than a dollar per day. Subsequently, most of these individuals lack access to basic necessities such as clean water and sanitation. Hunger, high mortality rate, and illiteracy are the norms.
So, how can it be that diamond mining communities are among the most impoverished? In this region of the world, diamond mining is largely an unregulated venture. Minimum wage laws and labour standards are foreign terms. In a bid to make as much profit as possible, employers cut down on as many costs as possible, including the miners’ wages.
It is also worth noting that a lot of the employers at these small-scale diamond mines do not have access to global markets. Thus, after exploiting their workers to get the ‘blood diamonds,’ they themselves must find a middleman who has access to the global market. These middlemen buy the diamonds at extremely low prices so that they can make a killing when they get to the West. It is a never-ending loop that leaves the actual guys on the ground living in abject poverty and misery.
Apart from being severely underpaid, diamond miners work in hazardous conditions. In addition, they typically conduct their trade without the proper training, expertise or equipment. As such, accidents in the mines are commonplace with the risk of the mine collapsing or a landslide occurring always looming.
Additionally, the pits created during the mining process often cause public health problems. Apart from environmental effects such as soil erosion, when these pits fill with stagnant rainwater, they also become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, thereby causing perpetual malaria outbreaks.
Moreover, diamond mining causes the mushrooming of small mining towns. The sex trade runs rampant in these towns and, due to the lack of literacy, most of it is unprotected sex, which exacerbates the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Even though the governments of these mining nations usually earn handsome revenues from the industry through both profit-sharing agreements and taxation, they rarely re-invest that money back into the community. Thus, while these governments earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year, the conditions surrounding the mining villages are horrendous. Health centres, water supply systems, and schools are virtually non-existent.
The reasons behind these travesties include but are not limited to corruption, weak political systems, and incompetence. Because money is being realized by the local governments, it only ends up lining the pockets of the higher-ups without any consideration to economic development.
While diamond mining might have a less destructive impact on the environment as compared to mining for gold, it still does have negative effects that need to be addressed. These negative impacts can be readily avoided if mining companies heed set regulations. Unfortunately, from the viewpoint of companies out to make a profit, these regulations cause ‘unnecessary costs,’ so the quick-fix solution is usually to abandon the regulations altogether, endangering the environment in the process.
Diamond mining is one of the leading contributors to soil erosion in mining areas. This sets off a chain reaction where agriculture is no longer feasible due to the nutrients found in the topsoil being washed away. People who were depending on agriculture for sustenance are left with no other option apart from mining or turning to crime. In addition to soil erosion, mining also causes these areas to become more susceptible to flooding and other hazards. Mining also contributes to deforestation, which eventually causes changes to the area’s climate.
Considering the effects above, it is clear that the diamond trade involving mined diamonds causes more harm than it is worth. An important thing to note is that diamonds are, in fact, not rare. Their ‘rarity’ is an artificial creation by the capitalists who sought to monopolize the diamond market. You might ask how diamonds came to be so valuable? De Beers, the leading diamond distributor in the world, monopolized the market by buying all diamond deposits so that they could control the price of diamonds. By limiting the number of diamonds making it into the market, the price of the stone is bound to go up.
So, what’s the solution? If you’re in the market for a diamond, consider lab-grown diamonds, as they manage to avoid some of the problems associated with mined diamonds.
What Are Lab-Grown Diamonds?
Also referred to as cultured diamonds, these are artificial diamonds that look just as exquisite as natural diamonds, but with a price tag that can be 30-40 percent cheaper. In fact, there’s no difference between synthetic diamonds and mined diamonds as they have the exact carbon structure. Not even the most skilled jeweler can differentiate between the two. And the coolest part, is that these lab-created diamonds avoid all these issues that come from mined diamonds.
Diamond-growing labs create artificial environments that mimic the natural growing environment of a diamond – high pressure and high temperature. Because the laws of thermodynamics hold true regardless of the environment, the produced diamonds have the same physical and chemical composition, optical properties, and crystal structure as diamonds found in nature. Thus, they offer you the same sparkle, brilliance, scintillation, and fire. In fact, the Gemmological Institute of America uses the same standards to grade both mined and synthetic diamonds.
Why Should You Purchase Lab-Grown Diamonds?
1. Blood and Environmental Degradation Is Too Big of a Price
Lab-grown diamonds are of the same—and in some cases superior—caliber as mined diamonds. Ask yourself if you want to spend your hard-earned cash on conglomerates set on monopolizing the industry. You’ll not only be spending top dollar on billionaires, but that money will also not reach the people giving their sweat and blood for your diamond.
Moreover, our current mission is going green. Diamond mining destroys large tracts of lands just for a handful of diamonds. Soil erosion and deforestation are the immediate effects of mining. This, in turn, results in infertile land and rains ceasing in that location. Is it really worth it?
2. Cultured Diamonds Are Cheaper
Lab-grown diamonds can be up to 40 percent less expensive than a mined diamond of similar quality. If you had set aside a budget for a diamond, choosing a lab-grown diamond means that you will get a much bigger and better-quality diamond than if you had chosen a mined diamond. For instance, for approximately the same price for a 1.5-carat solitaire engagement ring, you are likely to get a 2.5-carat cultured diamond of the same quality.
3. Supporting Sustainability
When you buy lab-grown diamonds, you will be directly promoting research and development in cutting-edge tech in categories such as:
- Material sciences
- Renewable energy
These efforts are direct investments in the future of humanity.
The Bottom Line
Diamonds are today’s ultimate show of affection for those you love. They show that you would literally move the earth for them, but at what expense? Mined diamonds are tainted with violence as well as economic and environmental devastation. Lab-grown diamonds avoid some of these problems by not creating them in the first place. If you live a conscious lifestyle, it should be rather easy to look for alternatives to mined diamonds for the good of the environment and the people of these mining operations.