South Africa

KZN’s apparent ’diamond rush’ in Ladysmith a concern for government

Durban: An apparent “diamond rush” in KwaZulu-Natal has prompted the provincial government to dispatch experts to a site near Ladysmith where residents have over the weekend been extracting stones they believe are diamonds, using household equipment.

Whether the stones are diamonds or another form of crystal has not been determined as experts from the diamond industry have yet to inspect the site in KwaHlathi, just outside Ladysmith.

Teams from the Department of Minerals Resources and Energy, the Council for Mineral Technology and the Council for Geoscience have been dispatched to the site to conduct an observation, the provincial government said in a statement on Sunday.

“We are deeply concerned about the images showing that some people coming from as far as some of the neighbouring provinces and towns are flocking into KwaHlathi. We are worried that if not brought under control the situation could result in chaos and a possible stampede.

“We call for order and calm and urge all those involved to cease their operations and vacate the site so as to allow the DMRE to conduct a proper inspection of the site and of what has been discovered there,” KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said.

According to an online publication, the Diamond Authority, diamonds have four sides while quartz has six. Several other aesthetic qualities such as weight, clarity and colour also set a diamond apart from a quartz crystal.

Furthermore, natural diamonds are generally formed around 150 to 200 kilometres below the earth’s surface, according to the Gem Encyclopedia.

According to South African jewellery retailer Arthur Kaplan, the stones will need to be tested before it can be properly established as to what they are.

“Due to it being a rough stone, we cannot tell by the images. We don’t work with rough stones. We purchase the stones already cut and graded from our suppliers. The stones need to be physically tested,’ Arthur Kaplan told African News Agency (ANA) on Monday.

A differentiation between quartz and diamonds. Picture: Supplied by Arthur Kaplan

Videos circulating on social media have shown hundreds of people at the field digging shallow holes in the ground and extracting the unknown stones.

Zikalala said that the “illegal mining” activities could be in contravention of the current Covid-19 health and safety regulations.

“It is also very concerning that in the wake of a looming third wave we have so many people gathered in one spot, not maintaining social distance and also not wearing masks. This could prove to be a super-spreader and might put many people at risk including those who are not part of the mining,” the premier said.

- African News Agency

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