Glitter and Greed

The Diamond Investigation

by Janine Farrell-Roberts c2000


This chapter tells how the author became involved in the world of diamonds -it begins like this -

Chapter 1. The Diamond Hunt.

Diamonds have been a strange best friend. It was because of them that the police were ordered out by helicopter to arrest me in the desert mountains of North West Australia for not having a government permit to be with Aborigines. I later learnt why my presence was of such concern when an Aboriginal hunting party smuggled me through high fences and security cameras into a secret diamond mining lease within the red and mauve slopes of an extinct volcano. A senior geologist told me they suspected their lease contained more diamonds than South Africa. I reported this in the newspapers and then was engulfed in a fight to protect this monsoonal land as the rich came hungry to it.

I soon was to meet with Indian, Belgium and American diamond merchants flocking to this diamond find. They told me of earlier secret diamond deals that had influenced the fate of nations. Intrigued, I wrote up the story for television. The resulting series, shot in six continents, was shown on the BBC and North American networks. It also ended up with me critically ill with complications occurred after a criminal assault. I thought this an attempt to silence me and it made me the more determined not to be silenced. I went to Southern Africa, became the guest of diamond mineworkers and stayed in their townships while they showed me just what life was like for a De Beers diamond worker. I found ways to enter South African diamond mines from which De Beers had banned me so I could more accurately report what was happening within the secretive diamond world. As for the rarity of diamonds - I met African mine owners who were strangely burying unwanted diamonds under desert rocks.

The more I found out the more it seemed that the image of the diamond world portrayed in James Bond movies was not a fiction but close to its reality. It really was full of intrigue, deception and former spies, with secret shipments, smugglers, danger and vast wealth created by illusion.

As I set out to find out more, I soon found myself in the Fifth Avenue office of one of the world's most influential diamond merchants, that of ...

This is thus the story of a crystal cursed by human greed and also of a journalist who perhaps was over-tenacious in her inquiries for her own health.

Yet when all this started for me some 21 years ago, all I had been doing was explaining the techniques of diamond mining to Aboriginal elders alarmed by how diamond prospectors in light aircraft, helicopters and four wheel drives were flooding into their heat hazed lands of rocky hills and plains. They wanted to know what would be the fate of their remaining tribal lands if diamonds were found on them by any of these companies.

... I was smuggled inside this perimeter by an Aboriginal group who had permission to hunt tribal lands within the lease. My face was dirty, my hair concealed under a scarf. The security guards ignored me probably thinking me a half-caste. They did not see in the back of the truck the camera on which I sat. We were soon driving past piles of kimberlite, the rocks in which diamonds are found. Later an Aboriginal girl picked up a transparent rock near a water hole and ask me: "Is this what they call a diamond?" I did not know for sure but I did witness the enthusiasm with which CRA was ripping apart this country..

In Melbourne a small company that had originally found these diamonds and brought in CRA, then had second thoughts when it found its own interests sidelined and left me in a room with a highly confidential three-dimensional plastic model of the diamond mine. This gave all drill core results. It revealed the diamond content as over twenty times richer per tonne than that reported for Southern African mines. On a subsequent visit to this same office mining documents prepared by CRA were shown to me. These revealed that over half of these stones were of gem quality - around the same proportion of gems to industrial stones as in South African mines. (Further secret details about Australian diamonds are revealed in a later chapter)

... In South Africa researching the industry, I found the miners hungry for information about De Beers. I spoke to meetings of up to 700 miners at a time, for up to three hours a session, inside the diamond mines. I was their guest in the townships, they smuggled me inside their diamond mines. I gained entry even to mines from which De Beers had banned me - the first person banned since the emergency of 1988 - yet at no time was there any disturbance at any meeting that I addressed. The miners secretly showed my film inside De Beers' mines. I witnessed how diamond companies had hidden the bulk of South African diamonds so that diamonds appeared rarer than they are.. . I I also found miners heavily exposed to asbestos dust from rocks surrounding the diamonds.

... I am still involved with diamonds. I have since found myself advising the ANC in Kimberley who were trying to reform the South African diamond industry. I am grateful my work can be of some practical use. So here I will tell at last - and with much relief - of what I found when I came to investigate the diamond trade.