If you go outside today, stop and take a look around. Notice the environment surrounding you, or down the street at your local park. Think about all the different lives that depend on our ecosystem and others all around our globe. Now picture a giant gaping hole where that park used to be. Or a distressed and destroyed seabed that was once home to exotic wildlife. Keep those images in your head.
We make choices every day that can either help or hurt our environment. And there’s been a huge push recently to do way more to reduce the hurt. Thankfully, technology is giving us the tools to move towards a greener lifestyle every day. And, although it’s difficult to create products that result in 0% harm, strides are being taken to find alternatives to some of the more detrimental practices that our society takes part in. Lab-grown diamonds are an eco-friendly alternative to their mined counterparts. And we’re here with some astounding facts to show you why.
What Are The Origins?
One thing we’re not here to say is that lab-grown diamonds come with zero baggage. Our goal is never to deceive our customers, but to provide the most accurate and up-to-date statistics and information that we have. Lab-grown diamonds, just as the name states, are created under controlled conditions inside of a laboratory. These labs are inside buildings where energy is used to power the needed electricity to run the man-made diamond machinery. More on this in a bit.
On the other hand, we have mined diamonds. Since these stones are formed deep within the earth’s surface, companies must employ miners to go — you guessed it — deep within the earth’s surface. But gone are the days of handheld pitchforks and shovels. Today, there are three main mining techniques, all of which use heavy machinery to extract these diamonds.
What is Open-Pit Mining?
From rock blasting to the use of excavators, open-pit mining boils down to a very large hole being dug into our earth to extract diamonds. And, as long as there is more resource to find, the hole just continues to enlarge. Often, after a diamond company has pillaged the earth for every stone they can, they are asked to rehab the land…although that doesn’t always happen.
“In this context, the term [rehab] includes designing and constructing landforms and establishing sustainable ecosystems, depending on the use aimed for. This includes reconstructing a soil ‘profile’, choosing species, establishing plants and introducing animals,” says a WA Today article.
Yet, in Western Australia alone, there are ten thousand abandoned mines that have no rehab plans in sight. Some of these open pits are so large, they can be seen from outer space. And at other sites, such as The Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada, companies are doing their best to amend the original plans for rehab — hoping to use the land that they’ve already destroyed as a holding ground for its own waste.
“Open-pit mining is to be considered one of the most dangerous sectors in the industrial world. It causes significant effects to miners health, as well as damage to the ecological land. Open-pit mining causes changes to vegetation, soil, and bedrock, which ultimately contributes to changes in surface hydrology, groundwater levels, and flow paths,” explains a study from ScienceDirect.
What is Underground Diamond Mining?
Underground diamond mining involves the creation of tunnels deep inside the earth to extract diamonds that were not found during open-pit mining. However, it is much more complex and, as a result, much more expensive. Essentially, two shafts are drilled along the sides of kimberlite — a rock that could potentially contain diamonds. Once the shafts are in, two parallel tunnels can be dug. Rock blasts are used in the top tunnel, in hopes that any diamonds inside of the kimberlite will fall to the second level.
But underground mining comes with its own set of challenges. Take for example the Snap Lake Mine in Northern Canada. After only 7 years of mining operations, it had to be placed under “care and maintenance” due to water seepage issues. Just about a year later, the decision was made to close it down completely and flood the underground parts of the mine.
What is Offshore Marine Diamond Mining?
To help find diamonds that were washed into the Atlantic Ocean millions of years ago, companies have constructed huge parcels that suck up the seabed in search of these stones. So what happens to all of the extra sediment? It’s simply dumped back into the ocean. In a CNN article about the effects of offshore mining, Kirsten Thompson, a marine scientist from the University of Exeter, gives her input.
“Marine mining removes parts of the seabed with heavy machinery and habitat recovery from this type of disturbance can take decades,” says Thompson.
But the disturbance to the seabed isn’t all that this type of mining can do. These huge ships are also causing increased noise and light pollution.
What Are The Outcomes?
Looking at the two origins — labs vs mines — it’s clear that both use technology and equipment to extract or create a diamond. But, let’s look at some statistics to see how exactly each method impacts our environment.
Which Uses More Water?
One of the biggest areas where mined and lab-grown diamonds differ is in their water usage. A mined diamond consumes more than 126 gallons of water per carat. Lab-grown diamonds, on the other hand, consume just 18 gallons. Mined diamonds also result in “constant discharge of wastewater and pollutants in surface water bodies,” according to a recent research study from Frost & Sullivan.
How Does Energy Use Compare?
When it comes to energy, mined diamonds use 538.5 million joules per carat, while grown ones use 250 million. Although this may seem like a lot, the Frost & Sullivan study claims that much of the energy used in creating lab-grown diamonds is renewable.
Do They Release Carbon?
The difference in carbon emissions on lab-grown and mined diamonds is staggering. According to Frost & Sullivan, while a traditionally mined diamond produces more than 125 pounds of carbon for every single carat, man-made diamonds emit just 6 pounds of carbon – a mere 4.8% of what mined diamonds produce.
Mined diamonds also produce more than 30 pounds of Sulphur oxide, while lab-grown diamonds produce none. “In terms of overall gaseous emissions, the growth process involves little or no emissions of significance,” Frost & Sullivan’s study reported.
In total, air emissions on a single carat of mined diamond are 1.5 billion times higher than those of a lab-grown one.
How Much Land Is Disrupted & Waste Created?
For every carat of diamond that is mined via traditional methods, Frost & Sullivan reports that nearly 100 square feet of land is disturbed and more than 5,798 pounds of mineral waste is created. The mining also offsets delicate biodiversity balances and renders the land unusable – even once mining activities have ceased.
By comparison, lab-grown diamonds disrupt just 0.07 square feet of land per carat and only 1 pound of mineral waste. According to Frost & Sullivan’s study, diamond-growing facilities “are often located in areas that have a negligible impact on the environment and have almost no impact on biodiversity in the area of operation.”
So, we’ll let you decide. Which of the two is more eco-friendly?