Diamond History in Namibia
Diamonds have formed over three billion years ago deep within the earth mantle. Intense heat and pressure caused carbon atoms to crystallize and form diamonds. Liquid magma (molten lamproide and kimberlite) was formed in the same area and expanded at a rapid rate. This expansion caused the magma to erupt to the surface of the earth taking the diamonds with it.
Several “pipes” of magma, called kimberlite pipes, were formed in the central regions of South Africa. With time erosion brought this kimberlite with its diamonds into the Orange River. The river washed them into the Atlantic Ocean where the Benguela current moved them northwards and the waves swept them ashore.
In 1908, when Namibia was still German Colony, railway worker Zacharias Newala found some glittering stones in the sand, which he gave to his foreman August Stauch, who was employed by the railway at “Grasplatz” close to Lüderitz. Soon was proven that these stones were indeed diamonds.
It didn’t take long and there was a diamond rush. Many people tried their luck in the Namib desert. The surface of the sand was covered with diamonds so that the people collected them on their knees. Between 1908 and 1920, 6 million carats were mined in that area, mainly by hand.
Today Namibia’s diamonds get mined mainly offshore with six enormous mining vessels by Debmarine Namibia, a joint venture between De Beers and the Namibian government. Marine diamonds are especially valuable. On their long journey through the river and rolling back and forth on the Atlantic floor only the highest qualities survived. 95% of the diamonds mined in Namibia are gem quality, compared to 40-60% of the diamonds from land operations.