WATCH: Diamond fever takes hold as ‘glass stones’ discovered near Ladysmith
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DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal government has announced that it will dispatch teams of experts to the KwaHlathi area, outside Ladysmith, following claims that “diamonds” have been discovered there.
It said the experts would test exactly what the glass stones were that had caused euphoria in the area and attracted hundreds of people, even from other provinces.
However, it warned that the mining activity was illegal and could worsen the impact of the third wave of Covid-19 infections. By yesterday, it was estimated that more than 500 people, including men, women and children, were digging around the clock looking for “diamonds”.
Social media was awash with videos and pictures of glass stones that residents believe are diamonds, and there were also videos of people digging for the “diamonds”.
This rush is reminiscent of the “gold rush” that took place in Harding a few years ago, where thousands of people flocked to the area, after a gold flake substance was discovered there by contractors.
However, the material found was tested and it turned out to not be gold.
The IFP ward councillor in the Alfred Duma Municipality, Sizwe Simelane, said he was shocked to discover that people had come from as far afield as Pretoria to look for the “diamonds”.
“This started on Monday, a cattle herder was in the field – just digging around there – and he came across these ”glass bottles”. The more he dug, the more he found, and he told the community.
“News started to spread and more people went to the site to dig. On Thursday, I decided to go there myself and see what was happening. It was shocking to see, there were people coming from as far as Pretoria.
“The digging is still going on, I estimate that yesterday there were about 500 people digging,” he said.
A resident in the area, Smilo Masango, said there had already been clashes.
“There have been instances where some of those digging are robbed of their finds by others at the digging site. There are teams that are now digging there, day and night,” said Masango.
UThukela District Municipality spokesperson Jabulani Mkhonza said they had not been able to verify the claims yet.
“We will be sending out our teams from Local Economic Development to the area to assess the claims, we have only seen the picture and glass stones that people have claimed to be diamonds,” he said.
In a statement, Premier Sihle Zikalala said the provincial government had noted with concern the illegal mining activity in the area.
“As soon as it was notified of this, the provincial government tasked the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs to refer the matter to the Department of Minerals and Energy, which has promised to dispatch a team to the site,” he said.
The team will include the department’s enforcement and compliance unit to conduct an inspection of the site, and a Mintek team (council of mineral technology and the council for geoscience) to establish the nature of the items.
The government also warned that the mining could be in violation of Covid-19 protocols.
“We are worried that, if not brought under control, the situation could result in chaos or stampedes.
“It is also very concerning that, in the wake of the looming third wave, we have so many people gathered in one spot, not maintaining social distance, and also not wearing masks. This could prove a to be a ’super-spreader’ event and put many people at risk, including those who are not part of the mining,” said Zikalala.