Diamonds have long held a strong cultural and social meaning, supported by companies globally control their supply and clever marketing. They are seen as a sign of wealth and long lasting love. The larger the diamond, the higher the social status of the owner. It can also be seen as a sign of greater love or commitment between couples.
There are many social and environmental impacts of extracting diamonds
The mining stage has the most negative impacts on society as the working conditions in most of the countries diamonds are mined in are terrible. Africa is known for having the worst working conditions as well as wages as low as $1/day for miners. Children are commonly forced into labour in Africa as well. These children experience physical and sexual abuse while being forced to produce diamonds, and are exposed to many diseases due to poor sanitation and living conditions.
A major political impact on the diamond trade is the use of blood diamonds to finance civil wars. These diamonds are produced in war zones and the labour used to mine is usually slave labour of either captured soldiers or the countries own people forced to work. The leaves behind a generation of people living in poverty.
Diamond mining also has many detrimental impacts on the environment and a century of reckless diamond mining has taken a heavy toll on Angola’s environment. Irresponsible diamond mining has caused soil erosion, led to deforestation and forced local populations to relocate. Angola’s diamond industry has been particularly careless in protecting rivers and streams from exploitation. Rivers have been re-routed and dams built to expose riverbeds for mining, with disastrous effects on fish and wildlife.
Diamond mining can cause entire ecosystems to collapse in extreme cases. In the Kono district of eastern Sierra Leone has left behind thousands of abandoned mining pits. Wildlife has vanished, topsoil has eroded, and land once suitable for farming is now a desolate moonscape. Mining pits have created a public health disaster as well because When the pits fill with stagnant rainwater, they become infested with mosquitoes, spreading malaria and other water-borne diseases.
As a society, there has never been more focus on understanding the impact of the choices we make and the footprint we leave behind. So, if you are preparing to use a diamond to symbolise your commitment, or treating yourself with some lovely jewellery, just think of the choice between mined and lag-grown diamonds, and their global impact.