(CNN)Millions of years back, valuable gem stones from the heart of southern Africa cleaned westward along the Orange River and cleared into the Atlantic Ocean.
Today, 6 ships comb the ocean, drawing sediment from the seabed. The enormous vessels are run by Debmarine Namibia, a joint endeavor in between the Namibian Government and diamond huge De Beers.
Last year the marine diamond mining business produced 1.378 million carats of diamonds, at a time when the nation’s land operations are subsiding.
To increase production, Debmarine Namibia prepares to build a $ 142 million ship-cum-tanker, which it states will be the world’s biggest custom-made diamond mining vessel , determining 577 feet long. It hopes this brand-new vessel will sign up with the fleet by 2021.
This kind of lorry– called a spider ship– has a 280-ton mechanical arm that relocates a horizontal arc, digging up product from simply below the sea flooring, at depths of around 400 feet.
Diamonds are then sorted from the dug up gravel in an advanced treatment plant onboard the ship. The gravel is gone back to the ocean and the gems are firmly sealed in containers, packed into steel brief-cases, and zipped helicopter to coast.
No human hands touch the diamonds throughout the whole production procedure at sea.
Gems in a haystack
Debmarine Namibia has a license to run off the coast of Namibia till 2035 within a 2,316 square mile location– simply under half the size of Jamaica.
But, while the ships mine 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they’re not searching every last square mile, describes Otto Shikongo, CEO of Debmarine Namibia.
” You just my own locations which are rewarding and mineable,”Shikongo informs CNN.”It does not imply that every location that you discover diamonds you go my own.”
He states Debmarine Namibia has actually diminished an overall of 50 square miles because production started in 2002, simply 2 percent of the license location.
” The resource is not homogenous and irregular,”he states, including that the future of the mining will depend upon their understanding of the seabed and technological advances.
“It’s not the like a land-based resource which you can see with your eyes … this one is 120 meters [393 feet] under the water,”he states.
Every so frequently Debmarine Namibia sends unmanned, self-governing cars– just like undersea drones– to survey the seabed utilizing finder innovation.
The group likewise utilizes a two-person submarine to take a look at the geology of the seafloor .
Next, a 12,000 lot expedition vessel scoops big samples from locations that are thought to hold diamonds.
To date these integrated innovations have actually recognized a mineralized location– or a location consisting of diamonds– of 617 square miles. This comprises simply over a quarter of the overall license location.
The hope is to find more diamond-containing locations through additional expedition and tasting, describes Shikongo.
Survival of the fittest
While marine diamonds might be challenging to discover, they’re definitely worth the hunt.
Shikongo discusses how nature guaranteed that just the”fittest “diamonds endured the journey along the Orange River, while weaker, imperfect stones were ruined.
“Because the diamonds went through a high energy procedure, practically like a toppling impact, just the very best, high quality diamonds endured and made it to the sea,”he states.
As an outcome, Shikongo approximates that 95%of diamonds recuperated from the sea are of “gem quality,”compared with simply 40-60%of diamonds from land operations.
But, in the look for these valuable gems, countless lots of sediment is dredged up and after that disposed overboard.
Marine researchers argue that seabed mining breaks down the marine environment, possibly affecting marine types.
“The waters off the coast of Namibia are an essential location for a high variety of local and migratory types, such as sharks, dolphins, whales and seals,”Kirsten Thompson, a marine researcher from the University of Exeter, informs CNN over e-mail.
“Marine mining gets rid of parts of the seabed with heavy equipment and environment healing from this kind of disruption can take years.”
But Shikongo states Debmarine Namibia constantly monitors its footprint.
According to Shikongo, the business’s ecological tracking program discovered that it takes in between 2 to 10 years for the seabed, and associated marine life, to recuperate.
However, in rockier surfaces natural healing might take more than 10 years.
Thompson includes that diamond mining can affect ocean life through increased ship traffic, contamination, sound and light, and is simply among lots of activities deteriorating the marine environment.
“Marine types are currently experiencing extensive modifications due to environment modification and other human-related activities, such as fishing, plastic contamination and shipping,” she states.
“Some environments and types are just not durable adequate to handle these several tensions at the same time.”
Offshore mining is significantly crucial for the diamond market in Namibia, as land-based production starts to tail off.
“Land operations have actually existed considering that 1908,” discusses Shikongo. “So these resources are not limited as we understand and as time goes … production has the tendency to taper down.”
Debmarine Namibia started marine mining operations in 2002, with a haul of around 500,000 carats . At the time, sis business Namdeb’s land operations were producing around a million carats.
But throughout the years the tables have actually turned and marine operations now represent near 75% of overall diamond production in the nation, inning accordance with Namibia’s Chamber of Mines .
With all eyes on the Atlantic, the concern stays: How quickly will we tire this valuable undersea resource?
Shikongo thinks there are most likely adequate stones spread throughout the Atlantic seabed for Debmarine Namibia to continue mining for a minimum of the next 20 years.
The only difficulty is discovering them.