If you search under “Google images” for “diamond mines,” you’ll see pictures of something that kind of looks like a wild gray whirlpool frozen in the midst of an angry spin. In actuality, it is an open pit kimberlite mine that was formed 1 to 3.3 billion years ago when the center of the earth got so hot, it opened up and created holes scattered across its surface, then blasted magma through something now known as “pipes.”
Most diamond mines are at the surface of a large vertical shaft known as a kimberlite pipe, and miners work in tunnels that run from the main pipe. Each mine runs deep into the earth, where hundreds of tons of rock, gravel, and sand wait to be blasted and processed to yield precious gems.
The part of this diamond mine that looks like a whirlpool in the sand to the average viewer is actually called the “depositional surface” and the part that is immediately visible is called the “overburden.” Below this surface are the goods, which are jam-packed in the depths of the earth.
Diamonds are mined using a multitude of methods, including: open pit mining, stoping, and glory holing.
“Open pit mining” is a general term used to describe the mining process. Mine designers consider the stability of the mine based on the overburden, local geology and rock composition, and the weight and impact of mining machinery. In open pit mining, the natural individual “benches,” or layers, of the mine must be part of the equation.
“Stoping” is a fun word in the diamond mining field that describes an extraction process that leaves behind an open space, or a stope, in the mine’s surface. Stoping often takes place underground, and miners basically bore a hole into the mine wall, get inside of the hole, and extract the diamond. It is used when the “country rock,” or native rock, is strong enough to hold its own weight in the shape of a hole.
“Glory holing” is one of the least common mining techniques, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s “Anatomy of a Mine from Prospect to Production.” This is because of the damage it creates to the mining surface area. To begin the process, miners blast an underground haulageway to the targeted area, then create a “glory hole” which provides a source of fallen ore. Think of it as somewhat of an hourglass or funnel effect, where the ore at the top crumbles and falls through a comparatively tiny vertical tunnel known as an “ore pass.” Trucks carry ore from the bottom of the ore pass for extraction of the diamonds.
The environment of a mine is extremely harsh and barren, but out of the harshness comes brilliance. The painstaking process of finding a gemstone quality diamond requires the mining of 250 tons of ore per carat, only elevating their status as a precious stone. Mining techniques have developed significantly since the first large-scale diamond mining operation circa 1866 in what eventually became known as the Kimberly Mine and are now highly engineered to minimize risk and maximize diamond yield.
If you have a crater-worth of diamond jewelry sitting around at home, you might want to think about selling some of it. Selling unwanted diamond jewelry with Diamond Lighthouse is a whole lot simpler and more efficient than the diamond mining and excavation process. We help you find the most cash for your diamond jewelry, every time – there’s just no ‘stoping’ us.