Touring a South African Diamond Mine - Oct. 2002
(click any picture to get enlargement)

A friend of ours has a classmate who works at the Cullinan Diamond Mine,
 which is near Pretoria, South Africa.  He arranged an underground tour
 for a group of us; there were no free samples though!

Entering the mine area, owned by De Beers.

The mine opened around 1900 and follows a steam vent from an extinct volcano.  Volcanos are the only thing hot enough to melt carbon and create diamonds.  Around 1950, due to an unproductive layer, they had to go  underground and began mining from beneath.
The "Big Hole", which is getting even deeper!

The first task was to get dressed as a miner, with boots, coveralls & helmet.

Safety items included a light system and a breathing pack; all heavy!

Fashionable, huh? 

The walk to the lift area was tough with all the additional weight!

This tower & cables raise & lower the lift to transport people & raw diggings.

Is he worried? or upset at the gals for searching the ground for diamonds? 

The mine consists of a 2200 foot shaft in which the lift operates.  At the bottom, a circular tunnel was built to surround the steam vent.  Emergency and support equipment is stored in these areas.  Tunnels are then dug into the vent and material is dug out from the ceiling. The material is moved to crushers and then transported to the surface.
The group patiently listens to the "lovely voice" of our British Lady Tour Guide, who has been leading  tours for 15 years.

A typical miner  :)  

A Core drilling machine

Samples are being taken from below to assess the potential for going to a deeper level; very costly!

Pulling out core sample 

Conveyor Belt 

Once crushed, the material is transported to the lift areas via a series of conveyor belts.  We looked for shiny diamonds in the dirt, but were told that the diamonds would be dull and thus very hard to spot with our eyes.  
Resting tour members 

Once the material is on the surface, it is send past workers who look for large raw diamonds; the largest in the world have been found here!  The material is then crushed further, which doesn't affect the hard diamonds.  The re-crushed material is wetted and sent over a "sticky" conveyor belt.  The heavy diamonds sink and stick to the belt, which is then washed to recover the smaller diamonds.  The waste product is then cleaned and moved to large, unsightly, piles. 

Still hoping for a luck find!

Surviving members in front of old cart which was used to haul material
Most of the diamonds, about 80%, are only good enough for industrial use.

The higher quality stones are either cut & sold on the property or sent to a DeBeer's center.  Any 
"big ones" are flown out via helicopter.

A quick drink in front of the company store leaves the group refreshed.

No one in the group found or purchased any diamonds; but there were "twinkles" in the eyes of the female members.  Warning to Males: Do not offer to bring your "significant other" here... if forced to, NEVER bring the checkbook or credit card!

Return to Jay's Main Page