Africa

How diamonds are mined from the Atlantic seabed

Published 9:59 PM ET, Mon September 3, 2018
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In Namibian waters off the west coast of Southern Africa, enormous mining vessels suck diamonds from the seabed. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
These ships operated by Debmarine Namibia mine 24 hours a day, 365 days a year within a 2,300 square mile area — just under half the size of Jamaica. De Beers Group
Since operations began in 2002, Debmarine Namibia has extracted nearly 16 million carats of marine diamonds from the ocean. De Beers Group
Each mining ship has a team of 120, with 60 people working on board for each 28-day rotation. Employees are flown by helicopter to and from the vessel.
De Beers Group
The diamond mining company sends out unmanned, autonomous vehicles to survey the seabed. De Beers Group
They also make use of a two-person submarine to examine the geology of the seafloor. Debmarine Namibia
Using this technology, Debmarine Namibia can identify areas of the seabed which contain diamonds and devise a comprehensive mine plan. Debmarine Namibia
One of the ships has a 280-ton track-mounted crawler that moves in a horizontal arc and mines in lanes.
De Beers Group
The crawler is remote-controlled and allows for the ship to mine much faster. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Once diamonds have been separated in a sorting plant they are sealed in tin cans. No human hands touch diamonds during the sorting and sealing process. AFP/Getty Images
The diamonds are then placed in steel cases and flown by helicopter to onshore vaults. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Diamonds are examined and graded by employees at the Namibian Diamonds Trading Company in Namibia's capital, Windhoek. AFP Contributor/Getty Images
According to Otto Shikongo, CEO of Debmarine Namibia, marine diamonds are more precious than diamonds from land-based operations. De Beers Group
Shikongo says Debmarine Namibia continually monitors its environmental footprint, however, scientists argue that seabed mining degrades the marine environment. "Habitat recovery from this type of disturbance can take decades," says Kirsten Thompson, a marine scientist from the University of Exeter. Courtesy Namibia Tourism Board
"The waters off the coast of Namibia are an important area for a high diversity of resident and migratory species, such as sharks, whales, dolphins and seals," Thompson tells CNN. Helen Morf/WWF