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Under Pressure: How Carbon Transformations Could Revolutionize Diamond Mining

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  • carbon transformation into diamonds has the potential to revolutionize the diamond industry. It could provide a sustainable and ethical alternative to traditional diamond mining while offering a unique way to mitigate climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere. However, transparency, continuous improvement, and industry-wide cooperation will be essential to ensuring the long-term sustainability of these efforts.

In the recent years, the diamond industry has experienced considerable pressure to reduce its environmental impact and achieve decarbonization[6]. Traditional diamond mining has a history of environmental damage, unethical labor practices, and contributes to global CO2 emissions[2][3][6]. Against this backdrop, breakthrough advancements in carbon transformations are revolutionizing the diamond industry, with a shift towards carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative diamonds.

Pioneers of Change

Companies such as Aether Diamonds and Skydiamonds are exploring innovative ways to make lab-grown diamonds from captured CO2, creating a more responsible and sustainable diamond industry[2][3][4][5].

Aether Diamonds, an environmental awareness-led startup, has raised significant funding to produce diamonds using carbon dioxide captured from the air. The company’s proprietary technology converts CO2 into methane, used to synthesize diamonds, offering a climate-friendly alternative to traditional diamond mining. The operation is carbon neutral, and for each carat produced, Aether removes 20 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere[3][4][5].

Skydiamonds, a project developed by Ecotricity’s founder Dale Vince, also creates carbon-negative diamonds by extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, purifying it, and combining it with hydrogen derived from rainwater to create methane. This methane is then used to grow diamonds via a plasma-based chemical vapor deposition process[9].

The Push for Carbon Neutrality

Recognizing the urgent need for a systemic shift, major mining companies like De Beers Group have set ambitious goals. De Beers aims to be carbon neutral by 2030 and has launched the “CarbonVault” program, which seeks to capture and store CO2 emissions using rocks from its mines[2].

The prospect of transforming carbon into diamonds is challenging traditional mining methods and has the potential to revolutionize the diamond industry. This new technology, led by companies like Aether and Skydiamonds, is designed to address environmental and ethical issues associated with traditional diamond mining. This industry has long been notorious for its contribution to environmental damage and exploitation of labor, often involving child workers [[2]].

The technology of carbon transformation used in diamond production revolves around a process known as carbon mineralization. This method involves the formation of solid carbonates through chemical reactions, which is touted as a versatile way to capture, store, and utilize CO2 [[1]]. In the case of diamond production, this transformation is taken a step further by converting CO2 into gem-quality lab-grown diamonds [[3],[4]].

Notably, Aether Diamonds has developed proprietary technology that extracts CO2 from the air and converts it into methane, which is then used to synthesize diamonds over several weeks. This process creates diamonds that are virtually indistinguishable from their naturally mined counterparts but offer significant advantages. Each carat produced promises to remove 20 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere using direct air capture and other carbon sequestration methods [[3]]. Similarly, Skydiamonds is creating carbon-negative diamonds by extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, purifying it, and combining it with hydrogen derived from rainwater to grow diamonds [[9]].

These lab-grown diamonds source carbon from air pollution and use renewable energy sources, making them truly sustainable. Notably, Aether has set ambitious goals to become a carbon-negative company by 2023 through on-site production and renewable energy integration [[3]]. It has managed to generate substantial interest and has already garnered over $3 million in pending sales [[3]]. Aether also plans to increase its production capacity, having already shipped hundreds of carats of diamonds [[4]].

The carbon transformation technology is driving changes even in traditional mining firms like De Beers. The company has launched the “CarbonVault” program, aiming to capture and store CO2 emissions using rocks from its mines. De Beers has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 and has collaborated with Carbon Trust to develop a decarbonization pathway [[2],[8]].

Despite these positive developments, there are also challenges and debates within the industry. A report by the Diamond Producers Association disputes the claims that lab-grown diamonds are more environmentally friendly, revealing that they have a larger carbon footprint. This controversy shows that achieving a truly sustainable diamond industry is a complex task that requires ongoing commitment to transparency and improvement [[11]].

The efforts to transform carbon into diamonds represent a broader trend in the mining industry towards achieving decarbonization. Traditional mining contributes 2 to 3 percent of global CO2 emissions, and stakeholders are increasingly demanding sustainable practices. Options for decarbonization include improving efficiency, adopting sustainable fuels and drivetrains, transitioning to green electricity, and promoting sustainable sourcing [[6]]. The emergence of companies like Aether and Skydiamonds, along with initiatives from industry giants like De Beers, indicate that the diamond industry is under pressure to change its ways.

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