The environmental effects of the diamond mining industry have been a concern for a long time. However, these environmental effects gained more attention than ever during the coronavirus pandemic as it accelerated the spread of eco-consciousness among consumers from all social classes.
While the unregulated practices of diamond digging can be difficult to track and their effects, challenging to minimise, the formal diamond mining industry has constantly been improving its practices to minimise the associated carbon footprint. The formal diamond mining industry is also trying to inculcate practices that lead to long-lasting positive effects on the involved communities and their environment.
Let’s take a look at the factors leading the way for sustainability in the diamond industry:
Factors Driving Sustainability in the Diamond Industry
Two main factors are driving sustainable practices in natural diamond mining practices:
Young, Eco-Conscious Consumers
The young generation of consumers is at the centre of the growing eco-conscious lifestyle trend and tends to evaluate the impact of their everyday choices on the planet. They especially pay attention to the environmental effects of their purchases' manufacturing, sourcing, and usage. Like other industries, the young generation of consumers is also paving the way for sustainability in the diamond industry.
A consumer trends study found that a greater percentage of younger generations, i.e., Millennials and Gen Z, pay attention to ESG credentials in their purchases. This percentage difference was up to 26% between the younger consumers’ choices and that of boomers’.
Efforts from the Diamond Industry
The diamond industry has already incorporated ESG into its business strategies. Implementing ESG criteria boosts natural diamond sales as it shows actions, not mere words, from the industry giants and stakeholders. Incorporating and implementing ESG in business strategies and practices is expected to significantly impact the communities involved in diamond mining.
The driving factors for sustainability in the diamond industry require taking action for the following challenges:
Waste generation is only natural when extracting minerals from the earth. However, recycling the waste materials as efficiently as possible has become vital to keep the demand for natural diamonds steady among the young generations of customers.
According to one study, young consumers don’t mind paying up to 25% premium on diamond purchases when ensuring the sustainable credentials of their purchase. More than half of all customers, i.e 56%, can be willing to pay as much as a 20% premium. In comparison, every one in five customers can be willing to pay up to 25% premium on ethically-sourced diamonds with a minimal carbon footprint.
There are two main drawbacks to utilising water in mining practices. Firstly, using large amounts of water for diamond mining can leave inadequate amounts for the local ecosystem. The increasing water shortage worldwide has made it vital for business industries to utilise as little water as possible. Access to clean water can be especially difficult in many countries involved in diamond mining.
Secondly, utilising water at the mining site can change the land's soil quality. If the water used in mining is not disposed of correctly, it can permanently impact the fauna of the land.
However, advancements in tools and machinery used for mining and cleaning the diamonds can help reduce water usage and water waste during diamond mining.
Impact on Local Biodiversity
One of the key challenges to sustainability in the diamond industry is the disturbance of land due to diamond mining. Since diamond mining requires completely changing the marked area through digging, it can negatively impact the biodiversity of the surrounding land.
Large trees or small plants may be unearthed for digging mines, affecting the fauna and natural landscape of the community. The plant life around the marked area for diamond digging can also be affected by the changes in the landscape. Removal of soil can especially disrupt the transfer of nutrients that surrounding plants may need to survive and flourish.
On the other hand, diamond mining can also disturb wildlife. Many animals can abandon their nests due to the prolonged human activity in the area. These animals may not be able to find other suitable habitats, which can endanger their survival.
Long term mining activity on a specific land while neglecting the needs of plants and animals that consider that land their home can lead to a disruption of the local ecosystem. The disruption can even contribute to climate change effects on that land.
Hence, it is essential for sustainability in the diamond industry to cater to the preservation of the local flora and fauna of the communities. The diamond industry must ensure all possible methods to prioritise the perseverance of the ecosystem of the communities involved in diamond digging.
One-hundred per cent recycling can be impossible for any industry that depends on gathering material from the land. The diamond mining industry can also create a lot of waste material due to digging, cleaning, and shaping diamonds.
Therefore, it is essential to incorporate effective and sustainable waste disposal methods into the mining practices. Different parts of the waste should be disposed of as effectively as possible.
For example, soil and sand can be utilised to fill up the earth after the mining is complete. Organic waste should be buried within the filled up mined holes to be naturally disposed of. On the other hand, inorganic waste should be repurposed wherever possible.
Besides the practices mentioned above, sustainability in the diamond industry is also taking place in different aspects of the business, such as transport, design and development of diamond jewellery, and packaging of the diamonds.
Synthetic diamonds developed in labs also present an effective solution to minimise the environmental impact of the diamond industry even when the demand for diamonds rises among the consumers.
Moreover, regulating the prices of diamonds according to their environmental impact can also be helpful, especially in reducing the demand for diamonds sourced through illegal digging.