JOHANNESBURG - De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond producer, could encounter a spanner in the works to their ambitious plans that could see them manufacturing its own diamonds in a laboratory.
The producer announced earlier this year that it would start selling synthetic diamond gemstones for the first time in its 130-year history.
However, labour unions have called on the company to engage workers first before embarking on any project that might result in job losses.
National Union of Mineworkers spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said De Beers needed to address them of their plans.
“They must first properly engage the unions about that and embark on a re-skilling process of their employees so that they are equipped to manufacture these diamonds in their laboratories,” said Mammburu.
An example of a man-made diamond
“If that re-skilling process doesn’t happen that could mean they are going to dump workers as they move to embrace this project.”
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union general secretary, Jeff Mphahlele, said they supported anything that would contribute to job creation.
“We are against anything that will destroy jobs. If De Beers is saying they are going to open factories here in South Africa to manufacture and beneficiate these synthetic diamonds, then we are going to support that,” he said.
“That in my view would create more jobs. However, there must be proper consultations with labour.”
Shiny Rock Polished, industry specialists in the fine jewellery sector, said manufactured diamonds were generally considered more environmentally and socially conscious owing to the fact that they were grown above ground.
It described the difference between a mined diamond and a manufactured one as the origin of the stone.
Shiny Rock Polished stated that the trend of minimising human impact on the environment was gaining momentum and that diamond manufacturing was at the forefront of the movement.
Repeated attempts to get comment from De Beers corporate communications manager, Jackie Mapiloko, were in vain.
FILE PHOTO: A still image from video shows coloured synthetic diamonds on display at De Beers' International Institute of Diamond Grading and Research in Maidenhead
The Finsch mine, which forms part of the Petra Diamonds Group, is South Africa’s second largest producer, according to Minerals Council South Africa.
The mine produces an annual 1.3Mct (million carats), but was being expanded to raise production to 2Mct this year.
The council said the expansion of the Cullinan mine near Pretoria was intended to lift annual production from the current 0.75Mct to 2.4Mct by 2019.