Environmental impact generated by diamonds is starting to play a key role in the decision making process by both consumers and trade members. Years of research and technological advancements now offer the diamond industry a new choice of rough diamonds grown above the earth which is both eco-friendly and human friendly. Moreover, these cultured or grown diamonds offer a source of sustainable raw material for the industry in the long term with negligible environmental impact.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Environmental Impact Analysis Production of Rough Diamonds based on a study comparing the environmental impact of grown diamonds and mined diamonds, depicts that growing diamonds cause significantly less environmental impact as compared to mining diamonds. There are several aspects of environmental impact such as air pollution, water usage, energy usage, etc. There is also a significant level of human impact as well in the process of diamond production. This report quantifies and compares each of these aspects for grown and mined diamonds per carat of diamond produced.
The study compares nine parameters encompassing environmental and human impact. There is also an overall benchmarking done on a ratio scale as well as on a combined scale revealing a total environmental impact rating
Frost & Sullivan’s environmental impact study indicates that the scale of difference in impact of mined and grown diamonds is very large. The Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) process used to grow diamonds is a cleaner process with a significantly lower environmental impact as compared to mining. Moreover, on the human impact front, diamond growing process necessitates maintaining a clean room environment and has no life or occupational hazards to their employees.
Some of the key areas of concern for mined diamonds continue to be air emissions and waste generation in the mining process. However, there are a number of sustainability initiatives that are being carried out by mined diamond producers focused on people, environment and economy. Such initiatives include funding local hospitals, running programs to counter HIV and AIDS, protecting biodiversity in the region, etc. Most of these initiatives are long term in nature and are targeted at benefiting the region of operation in a more sustainable manner.
While mined diamond industry continues to pump in time and resources to control and reverse the environmental damage, the scale of impact generated is too significant to be ignored. Also, in some cases restoring the environment to a state of no impact is highly improbable, especially if the impact is continuous rather than one time. Moreover, there are issues in ascertaining the extent of the impact as well as they may not be recorded or tracked due to differing laws and regulations across countries. The impact generated by mining continues even after the diamond production from a mine ceases.
On the human impact side, the extent of hazards in diamond mining is quite intense ranging from mine explosions trapping miners and equipment accidents, to workplace induced illnesses such as tuberculosis, permanent hearing loss, slow poisoning and increased cancer risk. However, the nature of this impact is quite visible and is under constant focus and monitoring by the companies in the mined diamond industry as they continue to strive for zero harm.
However, for grown diamond industry, challenges in tracking are minimal as the process of growth happens in a “greenhouse” setup that is easy to track, monitor and control in terms of environmental, social or any other kind of impact.
Sustainability in the diamond industry will continue to be a key concern as it will impact both the environment as well as buying patterns of consumers. From a supply perspective, cultured or grown diamonds offer an option to cater to the new consumer segment looking for an eco and human friendly product.
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