Engage Diamond Studio is just one of a number of jewellers located in Toronto. All across the city there are studios offering consumers stunningly beautiful diamond jewellery from the biggest names in the business. Yet it would be interesting to know if these jewellers are aware of the role waste reclamation plays in producing the diamonds and metals that go into their necklaces, wedding bands and engagement rings.
No, we are not talking about the kind of waste reclamation that turns household garbage into biofuel. We are talking about a type of reclamation that has opened up new doors of opportunity for minerals and precious metals. This new form of ‘recycling’ is known in the mining industry as ‘mining tailings’.
Tailings are essentially waste rocks that were considered not worth processing when mines were in full swing. As the Wall Street Journal explains, the De Beers mine at Kimberley, South Africa is a perfect example of this kind of mining. De Beers stopped working the mine in 2006. Yet even though they are no longer digging there, the mine is still producing diamonds through its tailings.
A Matter of Necessity
Mining tailings is not about merely finding new resources for raw product. If that were the case, companies such as De Beers would never have set tailings aside in the past under the assumption that processing them was too costly. What we see today is a matter of necessity.
Many of the world’s richest deposits of minerals and precious metals have reached the point of exhaustion. Keep in mind that it takes thousands of years to create a diamond under natural conditions. The Kimberley mine, originally established in the late 1800s, has been virtually cleared of what took nature thousands of years to create. We are working faster than the planet, thereby depleting what it naturally provides over time.
The diamond industry must embrace mining tailings if they expect natural diamonds to still dominate the market over their cultured counterparts. However, it does not stop there. Silver and gold miners are doing the same thing. They are turning to tailings in order to get every last bit of raw product they possibly can. In doing so, the precious metals they glean from tailings are passed on to wholesalers, suppliers and, eventually, retailers.
Waste on Your Finger
It is very interesting to step back and consider that the diamond ring on your finger could be made up entirely of materials harvested from waste reclamation. It does not make your jewellery any less valuable or desirable, but it does add a fascinating story to your pieces if it were known that the materials indeed came from tailings. Imagine the conversations you could have by introducing to your friends the fact that the rings on your fingers are the products of waste reclamation.
The chances of this sort of thing are increasing every day. From custom engagement rings to the finest necklaces and brooches, the use of reclaimed materials is growing with every passing year. Two things are seeing to that: demand and cost.
Where demand is concerned, it is not waning. We love our gold, silver and diamonds enough that we will continue to buy them as long as they are available. This demand keeps companies such as DeBeers in business, by the way. Fortunately for them, the cost of processing tailings is falling thanks to improved technology. Mining tailings is more affordable today than it has ever been.
Who would have thought that waste reclamation could be so important to mineral and precious metal mining? Yet it is. If not for mining tailings, today’s jewellery prices could be significantly higher.