Like all industries, natural diamond mining has an impact on the environment, the its use of land, water and the release of carbon gases into the atmosphere.However, to ensure that the impact is responsibly and ethically managed, the seven leading rough diamond producers of which the Natural Diamond Council is comprised have pledged a common goal to safeguard the natural world and ensure sustainable management of precious natural resources.
The seven producers, who together represent approximately 75 percent of the world’s rough diamond production, are De Beers, Alrosa, Rio Tinto, Lucara Diamond Corp., Petra Diamonds, Arctic Canadian Diamond Company and RMZ Murowa.
In order to achieve this goal, the producers have committed themselves to collaborating with local governments and communities on initiatives such as recycling, waste reduction, water conservation and alternative energy solutions that will reduce carbon footprint.c
REDUCING FOSSIL FUEL USAGE AND GREENHOUSE GASES
A fair degree of progress has already been made. The De Beers Group is working towards a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 with initiatives to reduce energy intensity through operating efficiencies, and to replace the use of fossil fuel wherever possible. It also has been working with a group of leading scientists on a pioneering project which aims to capture carbon dioxide within kimberlite, the rock in which diamonds are found, through a process called “mineral carbonation.” This breakthrough research in carbon capture technology, it believes, will lead to more advancements across an array of industries in the future.
In 2019, ALROSA invested more than $150 million toward environmental protection and rational use of natural resources, ensuring that 85.5 percent of total energy consumption comes from renewables. Over the past decade, it has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by almost 50 percent.
The Diavik Diamond Mine in Northern Canada, which is a joint venture of Rio Tinto and the Arctic Canadian Diamond Company, has become a global leader in cold climate technology, proving that renewable energy works in a remote sub-arctic location. Innovative ways were developed to prevent their four 9.2 megawatt wind turbines at the mine from freezing into inaction, despite temperatures falling below minus 40 degrees.
Carbon capture technology, which is being researched by De Beers, and the greater use of renewable energy is being applied by the mining companies to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases.
Water resources are critical in the various mining communities, and the mining companies are committed to sharing its resources with surrounding communities, as well as recycling water through technological processes. (Photo courtesy of De Beers Group)
WATER AND WASTE RECYCLING
The rough diamond producers are also committed to limiting their current impact through the improvement of waste recycling and reduction.
Natural diamond mining does not require the use of large quantities of chemicals in the mining and recovery of diamonds.
Most of the waste generated in natural diamond production is waste rock, or material that is removed from the mine and placed in nearby storage areas.
Once mining is complete, waste rock is reclaimed and becomes part of the natural landscape again.
Another important component of the natural diamond industry’s commitment to the environment relies on water recycling and reuse. Through reduction and efficiency strategies, Petra Diamonds has ensured that 72 percent of water used in its operations is recycled.
Petra’s Williamson mine in Tanzania also supplies drinking water to local communities, and in 2016, at the Koffiefontein mine in South Africa, Petra refurbished an emergency water pipeline which provided water to local communities during a long period of drought.
In 2020 Lucara Diamond doubled its water recycling from 2018 and is collaborating with the Botswana Water Utilities Corporation and Debswana, the diamond company owned jointly by De Beers and the government of Botswana, on a joint project through which Lucara will share excess water from its Karowe mine with the neighboring mine, allowing it to reduce its direct groundwater abstraction and to provide it to the local community.
Alrosa has also increased the amount of recycled water in their technological processes by 41 percent in the last three years, and in Zimbabwe RZM Murowa has constructed and rehabilitated boreholes and provided water to schools, clinics and other amenities. Under the community micro-irrigation program, RZM Murowa has also been able to create additional water sources with systems designed to minimize water waste.