When choosing an engagement ring or a diamond piece of jewelry for someone special, we do it with love in our hearts. That same love should be shared and expressed in the story of the diamond we choose. But do you know the true story and the true cost involved in mining diamonds? The human and environmental impact along the supply chain of diamond mining is massive but shockingly few know about the full extent. First off, how are diamonds mined?


The Diamond Mining Process

We all know how to get diamonds: They are formed underground under high pressure and high temperature and need to be mined. Have you ever considered how deep they might be, or what happens to the rock that gets displaced while trying to find them?


Diamond mine craters are so huge that astronauts can actually see them from space. The average stone used for an engagement ring can require the removal of between 200 and 400 million times its weight in displaced earth. Such huge amounts of mining for a small reward has enormous human and environmental impacts. 


The diamond industry relies on finding rough diamond along either kimberlite pipes, which are belts of igneous rock where diamonds are formed under high pressure and high temperature, or else in alluvial deposits, which refers to areas where rough diamonds have been naturally displaced from the kimberlite and so can be found in more loose, accessible matter.


Such areas are becoming ever harder to find, so when one is found diamond mining companies will be loath to lose them again. This natural diamond ground was not unused before; diamond miners will go seeking diamonds wherever they think they might be and are not afraid to force the people and wildlife living on that land out if they need to.


The Human Cost of Diamond Mining

The most common areas to find diamonds around the world are Russia, South Africa, and Botswana, but they can also be found in India, Australia, and across North America. Mining operations are currently ongoing in all these locations, with different destructive practices occurring in each.


Diamond companies across the world are not subject to the same regulations and so can have vastly different impacts on their local community. In parts of Africa for example, diamond miners are often subject to extreme poverty and are taken advantage of for their labor. This is not even restricted to adults, although that would be bad enough. In the Lunda Norte province of Angola, 46% of diamond miners were found to be between the ages of five and 16.


The rarity of diamond-rich areas are also fostering real-life Blood Diamond scenes. In the Central African Republic, it is estimated that over 10,000 child soldiers have been used in battles to gain control over diamond mines. These conflict diamonds then go on to be worn by unwitting diamond jewelry owners in the United States and around the world without knowing the hidden true cost of diamond mining.


An Inhumane Global Market

Child labor, conflict diamonds, and low wages in these areas of Africa might encourage consumers and diamond companies to buy from elsewhere. However, this is unlikely to help the situation a great deal if these diamond mining companies are still using open-pit mines and similar diamond mining operations. The world's diamond production often leads back to putting money in the same pockets at the end of the supply chain. Simply put, diamonds from North America can be traded at a higher price and serve to prop up the African diamond market. Buying from one area can still mean your money goes to fund abusive child labor and conflict diamonds.


The Environmental Impact of Diamond Mining

Furthermore, even in Canada and the United States, a crater of diamonds unleashes a host of environmental concerns that cannot go ignored. They are big enough to be seen from space and the average Canadian mine produces every day one million tons of waste rock and 950,000 tons of other waste extracted material, such as unwanted minerals and crystals. This waste is contributing to huge environmental changes ranging from acid drainage to a potential so-called carbon bomb. The environmental impact of mining can't be understated.


Mining companies in Canada have been dumping their excess and waste material in frozen dams. With global warming heating these dams up, this waste material with huge amounts of sulphuric acid inside could be unleashed on nearby soil and water sources. This would have huge knock-on effects on drinking water and agriculture supply chains. The hidden environmental impact of your diamond jewelry is as yet not widely known but nonetheless, the warning signs are clear.


What Are Our Alternatives?

This type of diamond mining is clearly exploitative and unsustainable. But that doesn't mean you have to give up on your dream diamond jewelry piece or stunning engagement ring just yet. In recent years, some of the world's largest diamond retailers have found ways of getting that stunning crystal clear look without the ugly impact behind the scenes.


Simulated diamonds are one technology advancement that is helping. It's a way of avoiding any of the above issues that natural diamond mining produces. They are commonly made from cubic zirconia and moissanite, but this combination does not always produce the most realistic and high-quality diamond alternative. However, Agape Diamonds, a leading producer, has its own formula for simulated diamonds that offers the brilliance and durability we all love to see in our diamond jewelry.


A second option is synthetic diamonds. These are lab-grown using the same minerals that are found in natural diamonds and so have many of the same characteristics and qualities that we all value in our favorite stone, without the potential damage that comes along with an underground mine. It's very difficult even for experts to distinguish between the two, so can be a good idea for those who are looking for an environmentally and humane option without wanting to give up on a gem-quality diamond.


Finally, there is a growing number of ethically-mined diamond companies, each with environmental benefits. These diamond producers work according to worldwide best practice for making sure their supply chains are fair, humanitarian, and carbon-footprint-conscious.


What Can You Do?


One way of being sure that you're buying from a reliable source is by using the DPA (Diamond Producers Association). Member companies of the DPA adhere to certain standards.The members' impact seeks to add greater transparency to mining practices and contributions of DPA members help to fund employee health and safety for the miners themselves, partnership with local communities and local governance, supply chain integrity, and environmental management to reduce damaging effects on wildlife and ecology.


Therefore, it’s a good idea to seek out DPA members for your diamond jewelry needs. Member companies of the DPA could offer diamonds from all of the above options or just some, but you can rely on them to be reducing negative impacts throughout their supply chain.


With all this knowledge about how to get diamonds for your treasured jewelry, you can now go on with your browsing to find the perfect stone for you or your loved one safe in the knowledge that it was made with as much love as you’re gifting it. Giving something this beautiful should leave you feeling and looking beautiful, so make sure you choose wisely.