Gems discovered in South Africa are ‘quartz, not diamonds’

Preliminary findings come after thousands flocked to a hillside in KwaZulu-Natal last week.

The prospect of finding a diamond sent ripples of hope across one of South Africa's poorest regions [Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

Gemstones that sparked a diamond rush to eastern South Africa last week are just quartz after all, according to preliminary findings.

Thousands of people had flocked to a hillside in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province to dig for mysterious stones first unearthed by a cattle herder and believed to be diamonds.

The rush prompted the government to send geoscientists and mining experts to collect samples for testing, the results of which quashed the dreams of diggers hoping to strike it rich.

“The tests conducted conclusively revealed that the stones discovered in the area are not diamonds,” a local government statement said on Sunday in reference to the report.

“In fact, what has been discovered are quartz crystals,” it said, noting that the yet-to-determined value of the stones would be “very low” compared with diamonds.

The report said the site – more than 300km (186 miles) southeast of Johannesburg – sat near a sill of volcanic rock named dolerite “which is not in a zone where diamond occurrences are present”.

It added that quartz crystals were common across a sedimentary basin known as the Karoo Supergroup, which stretches over the site, and particularly abundant along dolerite sills.

The prospect of finding a diamond had sent ripples of hope across one of South Africa’s poorest regions and beyond.

The country, renowned for its mineral wealth, has struggled with decades of spiralling unemployment worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

The diamond rush “highlighted the socio-economic challenges confronting people in the area”, the statement said.

The government has meanwhile reiterated calls for people to vacate the area, citing coronavirus risks and environmental degradation.

Source: AFP