Digging deep in S Africa as diamond hunt gets tougher

VENETIA MINE, S Africa - Proof that diamonds are getting harder to find can be seen in the South African bush, where one of the world’s largest mining companies is spending $2 billion tunnelling beneath a vast open-pit mine.

De Beers spent 25 years digging a 450-metre (1,500-foot) deep by one-kilometre wide hole to access diamond-rich rock from the surface at the Venetia mine, close to the border with Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Now a whole new underground mine is being constructed underneath the hole to reach diamonds more than 1,000 metres below ground - a big bet by De Beers that their investment will reap decades of profit.

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A fresh challenge that the industry faces is the emergence of synthetic diamonds, which are predicted to rapidly fall in price over the next 10 years as the manufacturing technology and quality improves.

But mining companies hope a real diamond dug out of the deep ground will still be the last word in luxury long into the future.

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