Diamond Mining Ship aka Peace in Africa

by on December 7, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Elizly Steyn on the deck photo by Simon Barber, Brand South Africa Blog

[South Africa Blogging Tour 2008] On Wednesday, we flew to this amazing diamond mining ship 10 miles off the Northern Cape coast of South Africa. Elizly Steyn, the metallurgist, one of the 3 women on board, gave us a tour of this huge “gadget” that costed 1.1 billion rands ($110 million) to De Beers.

Gravel filtering process, photo By Simon Barber, Brand South Africa Blog

After a complex six steps process that separates them from shells and clay, the diamonds end up in cans without having been touched by a single human.

Data imaging, monitors in the crawler control room, photo by Simon Barber, Brand South Africa Blog

Prior to start mining an area, an AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) explores the sea bed 15 meters by 15 meters, collects the data and generates a 3D image of the underground, so diamond trails are detected.

Click on the photo to watch the Crawler Launch gallery

Photo: the crawler launch in front of the ship, photo by Elizly Steyn, De Beers

The mining is operated by a giant crawler in front of the ship, the process is controlled by the metallurgist and the crawler team, using the data and the imaging generated from the exploration. The crawler is composed of a winch, a boom and a nozzle that mines 120 meters below the surface and scrape the floor 1 to 12 meters deep (avg 5 m).

Four anchors maintain the ship’s stability, on average 400 tons of gravels and 10 000 cubic meters of water are processed per hour to produce an average of 57 carats of diamonds. No chemicals are involved, everything except the precious gems is spitted back to the ocean, and the AUV monitors the ocean floor after the operation to analyze the impact on the environment. According to the crew, fishes are rarely caught in the machinery because they are afraid of the noise. The ship name is Peace in Africa, 65 people stay on board simultaneously, and each crew member works for 28 days and takes a 28 days break afterwards.

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