BANJARMASIN, Indonesia — Cempaka Diamond Mine in southern Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, is seen by some experts as one of the richest diamond fields in the world. A 166-carat stone and a rare blue diamond were discovered there in the past.
But with the halt of large-scale mining halted due to environmental and other problems, local people now engage in traditional methods of diamond hunting. Recently, however, a local entrepreneur has begun an effort revive industrial mining in the area. Although the hurdles to resuming full-scale operations appear high, expectations are growing that once begun, such work will contribute to the local economy. The hopes are that Indonesia will shine in the global jewelry industry.
Cempaka, a small village roughly 45km from Banjarmasin, the capital of the province of South Kalimantan, is pocked with large man-made holes. At the bottom of one, local men sift earth and sand in basins in a small pond.
The men are panning for diamonds. By rotating the basins quickly, they can separate the precious stones from sand an pebbles due to the difference in the diamonds’ specific gravity. The miners sometimes find gold and other gemstones, in addition to diamonds, villagers said.
A man named Ijar, 40, who was born in the village, has been prospecting for diamonds in this way since he was a child. “In this area, many groups of people are seeking diamonds like this,” he said.
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