Dandelion’s fragility reminds me of the human brain. The brain has so much information and memories real and imagined all webbed intricately; wherein a slight touch or even a gentle breeze could trigger a devastating signal hindering a person from living life to its fullest potential; allowing self-imposed diseases like depression, fear, misery, guilt, and sometimes ending it all through death.
How much do we know about diamonds? Besides what we see and hear from expensive advertisements, like the most famous ones, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” or “Diamonds are Forever?” Did you know that the Diamond is pure Carbon? Yes, it is 99.99999 pure Carbon. Did you know that the Diamond belongs to the Cubic/Isometric Crystal System? Did you know that the Diamond, besides the popular colorless, also comes in other varieties, depending on the impurities present, ranging from yellow and brown to green, blue, pink, red, gray, and black are also found. Did you know that because the Diamond is the hardest mineral on Earth, and this, combined with its exceptional luster and brilliant fire, has made it the most highly prized of all gems? It is truly unique and stands on its own. But where does it come from and how is it delivered to the consumers?
The formation of diamonds originates from the melting of prior existing rocks in the earth’s upper mantle, commonly, the carbon element. Not all carbon atoms become diamonds during the procedure of transformation. They either melt or totally dissolve when the temperature rises too high.
Most natural diamonds are formed at high-pressure high-temperature conditions existing at depths of 87 to 120 miles in the Earth mantle. Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source, and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years, which respectively corresponds to roughly 25% and 75% of the age of the Earth. Diamonds are brought close to the Earth surface through deep volcanic eruptions by a magma, which cools into igneous rocks known as kimberlites and lamproites.
Diamond’s journey starts from the asthenosphere, the earth’s layer lying 75-125 miles below the crust. Diamonds come to the earth’s surface when volcanic activity forces it and other rock minerals to go upward through a massive explosion underneath. This explosion will then create an opening, known as the volcanic pipe. This pipe then becomes the “depository” of the diamond and other rock minerals that have been shot upward and have fallen back to the pipe by the volcanic explosion. Not all the diamonds in the pipe remain in it and become discovered by miners. Most of the deposits are washed away either by rock erosion or water splashes emitted during the volcanic activity.
Since the discovery of diamond kimberlite rock in South Africa(around 1870), its extraction has involved processing vast quantities of rock. Australia is the main producer today; other localities include India, China, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Zaire, Botswana, Namibia, the former USSR, the USA, Brazil, and Canada.
Diamond is the most highly prized of all gems, in part, due to the millions of dollars spent in advertising by DeBeers Diamond Corporation. DeBeers is the biggest producer of diamonds from around the world. Needless to say, DeBeers invests millions of dollars in research to discover the locations of kimberlite and lamproite rocks around the world. Once they are located, DeBeers would execute a massive and expensive mining operation to find diamonds. Here’s a recent example of DeBeers attempt to mine diamonds inCanada that they called as the “Victor Diamond Project.”
The “Victor Diamond Project,” is a massive diamond mine in northeastern Ontarionear Attawapiskat on James Bay. The mine site would cover an area of 12,355 acres. The open pit would be 721 feet deep and 1-2 miles wide. The ecological footprint of the mine (the area its operations will impact), however, is much larger. Up to 642,474 acres – an area roughly four times the size of the City of Toronto. – will be impacted by dewatering, the pumping of water out of the pit, which is likely to massively change water flows above and below ground throughout the area. There is a good chance that this project will be expanded if more diamonds are discovered in the region.
As well, a new hydro corridor and access road from the coastal community of Attawapiskatto the mine site 56 miles away will bisect intact wilderness. An existing winter road along theJames Bay coast will be upgraded for heavy use by large haul trucks, thus furthering spreading the ecological footprint of the mine.
What would the environmental impacts of the mine be?
100,000 cubic meters of salty water will be pumped out of the pit each day into the Attawapiskat River. This is equivalent to 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools per day or 14,600 pools per year.
The flow of theNayshkatooyaowRiver will be decreased by at least 15%.
A 1.6 mile stretch of South Granny Creek will be “moved.”
1.2 million m3 of muskeg, including trees and other plants, will be removed.
River crossings may lead to siltation of rivers and creeks and impact water quality.
Fish populations such lake sturgeon, brook trout, walleye and whitefish may be harmed by the changes in water flow and water quality.
2.5 million tons of rock would be processed (piled, crushed and dumped) each year.
28.7 million tons of rock would have been dug from the ground over the life of the mine and dumped in the surrounding area.
The waste rock may leach chemicals into the surrounding water.
The mine would sit on top of a nationally significant geological feature called a karst, which has been described as the “best developed and most extensive karst topography inOntario.”
The area of the proposed mine and its associated infrastructure provides critical habitat for woodland caribou, a threatened species. Caribou are extremely sensitive to industrial activity and usually disappear from areas where it occurs. After the mine closes and the site is re-vegetated, studies say that “excellent habitat for moose” (shrubs and young forest) will be created, which also means that the habitat that previously supported caribou (older forest and bogs) will be diminished. This will result in the local extinction of caribou.
The water table could be affected for up to 642,474 acres surrounding the mine. This would change the vegetation of the area and reduce the abundance of lichens, key food for caribou.
The noise of the explosives used to construct the mine and from pit operations combined with trucks bringing supplies and materials to and from the mine site (60 trucks per day) would negatively impact wildlife behavior.
Habitat for migratory birds would also be impacted.
Unfortunately, the provincial government has been handing out permits for mine preparation operations before the overall project was even approved. For example, DeBeers was given permission to pump 100,000 cubic meters of water out of the Attawapiskat River each day and sought approval to construct roads, divert a river and build a barge landing in James Bay. This piecemeal approach means that components of the mine that could have a significant environmental impact might proceed before the full environmental assessment process is even finished!
What would the social impacts of the mine be?
The mine would bring increased traffic through First Nations communities, changing the social fabric of the region. There is the chance that some communities will see short-term economic benefits, in the form of employment and revenue sharing, while other communities may receive few or no benefits. The traditional livelihoods of First Nations may be affected by impacts of the mine on fish and wildlife populations. Unfortunately, these impacts will last far longer than the mine’s operational life – the mine would only produce diamonds for 12 years, but its environmental impacts may last generations.
What is the effect of mining in the global environment?
Industrialization is closely connected with mining, but mining creates enormous volumes of waste and pollution. We are turning the Earth inside out and destroying the environment. Mining operations are carried out all over the world, but the intensity varies between countries. Depending on the materials extracted, production is concentrated in small groups of countries.
For each ton of useful metal, we have to dig out many tons of ore. The amount of waste depends on the ore type. For instance, for iron it is 60 percent; for manganese, 70 percent; for tungsten, 99.75 percent; for zinc 99.95 percent; and for gold, 99.99 percent.
Mining creates mountains of tailings, which are either left lying around or disposed of somehow. In Latin America, mining activities have resulted in the scattering of about 5000 tons of mercury in forests and urban areas. For every ton of extracted ore, a ton of mercury is released into the Amazon River. Mining operations in South Africa are responsible for large emissions of sulphur. In China, gold mining is claimed to have resulted in large quantities of arsenic, mercury, and cyanide being scattered on the surface. In some places, tailings have been pushed into creeks, contaminating water used by villagers living downstream.
Most tailings contain sulphides. While sulphides are in the ground they cause no harm, but when they are brought to the surface and exposed to air they are converted gradually to sulphuric acid, which dissolves heavy metals in the tailings and releases them into the environment.
The oxidation of sulphides can go on for hundreds of years. Once the dirt is dug out, it will cause trouble for several generations. However, this dirt means money. It also means progress, of a sort, so we continue to dig everywhere. Mining contaminates the soil and waterways, kills fish and other forms of life, pollutes the air, and is harmful to people. Tailings from hundreds of mines all over the world are stored on land, and now many mining companies are dumping their waste at sea or are planning to do so.
The idea behind disposal at sea is that oxygen is scarce in water, so oxidation of sulphides is slow. It is slow, but not absent. The disposal of tailings at sea creates impoverished marine ecosystems. The effect of extensive dumping can be devastating.
The dumping areas are mainly around the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. There are about 20 sites in that small region of the globe, and the scale of environmental damage can be appreciated if we consider that in just one of them 22,000 tons of tailings are dumped each day, and that a single mine can produce about 270,000 tons of waste a day.
Alarming events are taking place all around us, but in general we are not aware of them. During the short span of a human life these events occur too slowly to make a lasting impression on us. We do not notice them also because we are too busy. We live in a rapidly changing, competitive, and demanding world, without the time or the inclination to collect information, analyze it, work out the right interpretation, and draw correct conclusions.
In the process of making our conclusions, we can consider predictions depending on various options. For instance, the Global Scenario Group has projected four future developments: (1) Market Forces, (2) Policy Reform, (3) Fortress World, (4) and the Great Transition. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) calls them Market First is a market-driven future based on an assumption of an almost unlimited ecological capacity to support global development and industrialization. Policy First requires a coordinated pro-environment effort by governments to create a better future for everyone. Security First is characterized by a self-centered attitude of protecting privileged groups, and of making their fortress safe and secure while ignoring the needs of the outside world. Sustainability First requires a radical change in our behavior, reflected in selfless care for one another and dedication to the environment.
An interesting feature of all these projected developments is that they predict almost identical growth in the global economy. However, only Sustainability First (or the Great Transition) offers an improvement in a wide range of other areas, such as fewer conflicts, greater gender equity, lower carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, increased forest areas, less water stress, greater international equity, and a dramatic reduction in the number of people suffering hunger. So it seems we still have a choice. With proper global management we can have global economic growth and a sustainable future.
We live in a unique period of the Earth’s history described as the Anthropocene and characterized by the exceptionally strong human influence on the environment. Our global future is determined not only by critical global trends and events we have already put in motion, but also by the way we respond to the problems we have created. The most likely response will be business as usual, which means we will do little or nothing to change the progression of critical global events. This corresponds to the Market Forces or Market First development. This path is only one step away from an even more undesirable possibility: the Fortress World development.
We still have a choice: to be actively involved and shape our future or to give up and allow for the critical global trends to shape it for us.
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My mind is full of happy thoughts and what I see in my eyes is a wonderful world! Although my mind is always busy thinking of the many ways in how and what I could do still to make this world an ever better place for other generations to come.