Environmental Impact

Environment Friendly Living

Environmental Impact of Diamond Mining

Most people usually look at diamonds, not really interested in knowing about how are diamonds actually mined, what do diamond mines look like, how many types of diamond mines is there, etc. Without diamond mining there wouldn’t be diamonds so we should at least know some basic facts about 4 commonly used types of diamond mining based on mining techniques: open pit mining, hard-rock mining, alluvial mining, and the marine diamond mining as the latest technique, all of which leave damaging effects on the earth, sometimes irreversible.

As mining moves deeper into the earth and towards more remote locations and the consumer demand for larger diamonds continue, the extraction process is becoming increasingly complex and costly…to the environment. Each year, over 150 million carats of diamonds are extracted from the Earth through mining. To do so, enormous amounts of soil needs to be removed and processed. The Conflict-Diamond Industry would like consumers to believe that the benefits of formal (regulated) mining far out way the environmental impact. However, the truth is that mining is catastrophic to the local environment and its aboriginal people.

How much earth is destroyed for a 1.0ct diamond

Quick Facts:
  • 1750 tons of earth has to be extracted to find a 1.0ct rough diamond and consumer demand for larger diamonds is on the rise. Average engagement ring diamond size in 1920 was 0.30ct today that has risen to 1.25ct per.
  • So called “conflict-free” Canada diamond mines are often built in environmentally fragile ecosystems, have significant ecological footprints, and will significantly impact upon the caribou, wolverine, bears, ptarmigan and fish which provide food for Aboriginal peoples.
  • 20 tons of mined waste is produced to make one Gold ring to hold that diamond. The earth mined ore is mixed with Cyanide, a known toxic poison, to dissolve the Gold or Silver from the ore, making the land and waterways around the mining area poisoned.

Gold and diamond mining create extreme environmental damage including logging and removing 1750 tones of earth to mine a 1.0ct diamond, however, there is also the contamination resulting from leakage of chemicals also affect the health of the local population. Mining companies in some countries are required to follow environmental and rehabilitation codes, ensuring the area mined is returned to CLOSE to its original state (but how can you fill in an open-pit diamond mine or gold mine that is 2.5 miles in depth – that’s 10 Empire State Buildings?). Some areas have no regulations at all. That is why The Greener Diamond and MiaDonna feel it is so important that the definition of a conflict diamond is redefined to include the protection of the environment. You might think that Canadian diamonds are conflict free, however, the federal, provincial and territorial regulatory frameworks in Canada are inadequate to protect the environment from long term and cumulative environmental effects.

Case study of the environment impact of the Victor Mine – Canada

Above is an example of the Environmental Impacts of the so-called “Conflict Free” Canadian – Victor Mine. This is a diamond mine with some regulations…imagine what is happening in diamond mines with ZERO environmental regulations.

Water Impacts from Canadian Victor Mine:
  • 100,000 m3 of salty water will be pumped out of the pit each day into the Attawapiskat River. This is equivalent to 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools per day or 14,600 per year.
  • The flow of the Nayshkatooyaow River will be decreased by at least 15%.
  • A 2.6 kilometer stretch of South Granny Creek will be “moved.”
  • 1.2 million m3 of muskeg, including trees and other plants, will be removed.
  • River crossings may lead to siltation of rivers and creeks and impact water quality.
  • Fish populations such as lake sturgeon, brook trout, walleye and whitefish may be harmed by the changes in water flow and water quality.
  • Methyl mercury may be released by the dewatering of the muskeg.
Land Impacts from Canadian Victor Mine:
  • 2.5 million tons of rock would be processed (piled, crushed and dumped) each year.
  • 28.7 million tons of rock would have been dug from the ground over the life of the mine and dumped in the surrounding area.
  • The waste rock may leach chemicals, such as acids, into the surrounding water.
  • The mine would sit on top of a nationally significant geological feature called a karst, which has been described as the “best developed and most extensive karst topography in Ontario.”
Wildlife Impacts Canadian Victor Mine:
  • The area of the proposed mine and its associated infrastructure provides critical habitat for woodland caribou, a threatened species. Woodland caribou are extremely sensitive to industrial activity and usually disappear from areas where it occurs. After the mine closes and the site is re-vegetated, studies say that “excellent habitat for moose” (shrubs and young forest) will be created, which also means that the habitat that previously supported caribou (older forest and bogs) will be diminished. This may result in the local extinction of caribou.
  • The water table would be affected for up to 260,000 hectares surrounding the mine. This would dry out muskeg, change the vegetation of the area and reduce the abundance of lichens, a key food for caribou.
  • The noise of the explosives used to construct the mine and from pit operations combined with trucks bringing supplies and materials to and from the mine site (60 trucks per day) would negatively impact wildlife behavior.
  • Easier motorized access (better and more roads) to and in the region will increase hunting pressure on game species.
  • Habitat for migratory birds will also be affected.

Gold Mining

Let’s not forget mining the gold for the setting you will put your diamond in. Mining for precious metals can sometimes be harder on the environment than mining for diamonds and gems. Extreme toxic waste from gold mines contain as many as three DOZEN dangerous chemicals including; arsenic, lead, mercury, petroleum byproducts, acids, cyanide. This ends up in the water supply and soil, working its way into the food chain and sicken people and animals for generations.

The top four mines that dump tailings into bodies of water account for 86% of the 180 million tonnes dumped into bodies of water each year. Those mines are:

  • Freeport McMoRan and Rio Tinto’s Grasberg mine

    in West Papua, Indonesia, which accounts for approximately 80 million tonnes of tailings

  • Newmont Sumitomo Mining’s Batu Hijau mine

    in Indonesia, which accounts for approximately 40 million tonnes

  • Ok Tedi Mining Ltd.’s Ok Tedi mine

    in Papua New Guinea, which accounts for approximately 22 million tonnes

  • Cliff’s Mining Company’s Wabush/Scully mine

    in Labrador, CANADA, which accounts for 13 million tonnes of tailings

Environmental Impact of MiaDonna Man Made Diamonds

Contrary to mining, no water or air pollution results from the production of laboratory created diamonds. There are no devastated ecosystems associated with it, nor do we use substantial amounts of water or hazardous chemicals or any other environmentally dangerous substances or processes. In fact, the only resource we consume is a modest amount of electricity, which primarily comes from renewable source.

It’s time to evolve – Your choices will change the world!

In the 21st century there is no need to harbor these antiquated ideas and old traditions of mining. Science has advanced so much that we can now make diamond (crystallized carbon) in a modern-day lab environment and we can recycle gold as easily as we can recycle an aluminum can. The Greener Diamond believes that purchasing a modern diamond alternative while giving back to diamond mining communities without digging enormous holes in the earth is a far better solution.

This is is a syndicated post. Read the original at thegreenerdiamond.org


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