Analysis: Why diamonds aren’t a developing world’s best friend

An open data/intelligence analysis shows the importance of last week’s #DiamondRush in South Africa. Even before the nature of the gems are confirmed, the analysis shows the government failed to protect the people and the environment

Holes in the ground: diamond digging can have an impact on the environment and on locals, either due to the spread of a virus or unfair treatment by the government that ends up in conflict and distrust
Left: 2021, KwaHlathi, near Ladysmith, KNZ, South Africa; Right: Chiadzwa diamond rush (the communal area in Marange, Zimbabwe)
Paper: South African Diamonds: A Photographic Personal Perspective, published in December 2013, in ‘Rocks & Minerals’, author: Bruce Cairncross, University of Johannesburg
Rough location of the digging site
Local polling stations quoting ‘KwaHlathi’
A panorama map of the site from a video found on social media
Geolocated from images taken from media reports
As of June 18, 2021
Image of a Facebook user hoping that the diamonds are real. In the background a radar station on the top of the hill.
Few of the fortune seekers are wearing masks
The news website ‘’ tried to garner attention by spreading unverified claims on the situation in KwaHlathi, South Africa
Spreading false hope, social media users posted took it into their own hands to ID the gems, with limited success.

Environmental impact

Source/Photos by Phill Gaufi Magakoe, a photojournalist based in Pretoria, South Africa (shared on Facebook)
Changes visible in satellite images between June 11 and June 17, 2021

Selling online like hotcakes

A South African gem digger near the site attempts selling an unidentified gemstone under the label of a ‘diamond’ on Facebook Marketplace shortly after the DiamondRush in a small village near Ladysmith started
Diamond testers in high demand

Investigative journalist with a technical edge, interested in open source investigations, satellite imgs, R, python, AI, data journalism and injustice