Screening Environmental and Human Health Impacts of Natural Diamond Mining and Processing
Natural diamond, used in applications ranging from jewelry to machining tools, is the hardest material found in nature. The mining and processing of natural diamond is associated with substantial impacts on the environment as well as on human health. Large-scale diamond mining requires considerable amounts of energy and generates large amounts of tailings. About one fifth of the global diamond production originates from artisanal mining, which is associated with adverse human health impacts as the miners typically work under harsh conditions. Despite this, the environmental and human health impacts of natural diamond mining and processing have until now not been investigated to any depth. The aim of this study is to conduct a screening assessment of environmental and human health impacts of natural diamond production with an average global perspective. The method of life cycle assessment is applied, and the disability-adjusted life years indicator is used for the quantification of human health impacts. The results from this screening study shows that about 1.3 life days are lost per carat of natural diamond produced globally. This corresponds to a loss of about 490 000 life years considering the total global production at 134 million carats in 2016. The human health impact is clearly dominated by the contribution from occupational accidents in the artisanal diamond mining (97% of the total human health impact). Other sources of impacts, such as occupational accidents during the large-scale share of mining and processing, contribute with the remaining few percentages. The environmental impact results were, on the contrary, dominated by the use of electricity in large-scale mining and processing. The results from this study can be applied in future life cycle assessments of natural diamond and related end products. A sensitivity analysis identified parameters such as the number of artisanal miners and the annual fatal accident rate in artisanal mining in need of being further investigated in further studies. In addition, a more detailed assessment of large-scale mining and processing and the development of a method to include also positive human health impacts to artisanal miners are recommended.
the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Disability-adjusted life years (DALY)
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)