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Can Gemstones Be Sustainably Mined?

Shutterstock Licensed Photo - 1446611195 | By Andy Badenhorst

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The traditional process of mining gemstones involves large-scale excavation, which can cause notable environmental damage. Practices can disrupt local ecosystems and have lasting effects on the surrounding landscape.

For instance, digging vast pits not only harms the earth but also destroys habitats for countless organisms. Furthermore, water sources near mines can potentially become contaminated by the chemicals that are used in the extraction process.

In this day and age in which eco-friendliness is at the top of everyone’s minds, you may well be wondering, in the wake of the above information, whether gemstones can be sustainably mined.

Well, the good news is that there is currently a concerted effort being employed to make gemstone mining more sustainable. However, there is still a long way to go.

Let’s find out more.

Small-scale Mining Operations and Reclamation Practices

To potentially achieve sustainable gemstone mining, current practices need to be rethought.

One method that is now gaining traction involves small-scale artisanal mining operations. These operations aim to minimize the environmental impact by using less invasive techniques.

For example, instead of big excavations, artisan miners carefully dig and make sure they restore sites after the mining is completed. The after-effects of mining can be drastically reduced when mandatory reclamation practices are implemented.

By restoring mined areas to their original conditions as much as possible post-mining, such as planting native vegetation and restoring the natural landscape, sustainability can be better achieved.

New Technologies and Innovations

Technological advancements can also play a crucial role in determining the sustainability of gemstone-mining practices.

More sophisticated machinery allows miners to extract gems more efficiently and with less environmental disruption.

As new technologies are developed, gemstone mining could become much more sustainable.

Traceability

Traceability has become quite important in recent years too. Knowing where gems originate helps foster transparency regarding ethical sourcing and mining practices.

In particular, blockchain technology is being utilized to ensure every step in the supply chain is well-documented and above board.

Legislation Changes

Legislation changes can make a significant difference in promoting sustainable mining. Governments need to play their part by enforcing stricter rules and regulations against harmful mining practices.

For instance, banning the use of mercury in small-scale mining, which is a common practice known for its detrimental environmental impact, can help to improve the environmental impact of gemstone mining.

Consumer Awareness

Consumers also play a role in promoting gemstone-mining sustainability.

Buyers should be made much more aware of the conditions under which their gemstones are mined. They can then be empowered with the knowledge to make ethical buying decisions, such as choosing responsibly sourced stones over those with dubious origins.

Another option that consumers have is to purchase lab-grown diamonds instead of traditionally mined diamonds. If you buy lab-grown diamond rings, for instance, you can do your bit to reduce the environmental harm that can be caused by mining.

Fairtrade Initiatives

Fairtrade initiatives for gemstone mining are gaining momentum. These programs ensure that miners receive a fair wage and work in safe conditions without exploitation.

Plus, consumers who buy Fairtrade gemstones will know that their purchases directly support miner communities. In turn, that will create a more sustainable cycle of commerce.

Summing Up

To ensure 100% sustainability at this moment in time, mining for gemstones would need to cease completely. However, while there is still a demand for gems and companies to continue to mine, there are a number of ways in which gemstone mining can be made more sustainable.

As we have seen, that involves utilizing small-scale mining operations and reclamation practices as well as developing innovative technological solutions.

Traceability, changes in legislation, consumer awareness, and Fairtrade initiatives can also contribute to a more sustainable future for gemstone mining.

You might also be interested in learning why sustainable practices make good business sense.

Connie Geer is the Marketing/Business Development Director at Advanced Metal Etching. She specializes in content marketing, SEO, and lead generation.

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