In Africa, trading in diamonds is a huge industry, especially for those who own the mines. The miners though have, for years, risked their lives to try
and get their share in the business, most times illegally.
Since so many mines have retrenched staff in the last few years, there has been a need to find other means of employment, and for some, this has
involved digging for diamonds themselves. As many as 60% of the mining workforce of previous years has become involved in illegal diamond trading,
choosing to work the closed mines despite the dangers involved.
Just four years ago, the losses in the mining industry to illegal trade came to about R5 billion, a figure that is small compared to the industry’s
profits, but still significant. This is having a huge impact on businesses, but as many of the illegal miners will testify, it does keep the money
The biggest danger to these miners is not getting caught. In fact for many, getting caught results in a nominal fine, usually just a small percentage
of what they make from their activities. The biggest danger comes in working in unstructured and unsupported mines, where the danger of collapse is all
One of the worst dangers includes violent crime, which has led to many deaths. With so many dangers, why do so many risk the mines and possible
death for a few shiny rocks? Apparently, one of the reasons is that those who work these closed mines believe that the land belongs to them anyway.
Through the disempowerment of the native African population when the settlers landed many years ago, locals believe that the land they work belongs
to them, and that is was unfairly taken away.
The money is obviously also a huge draw card and drives many to the mines in the hopes that they will unearth diamonds. With the state of poverty in
the country, it is no surprise that so many assume they cannot support their families without resorting to illegal mining, and so they continue to pursue
their ‘holy grail’.