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Fortune seekers have flocked to the village of KwaHlathi outside Ladysmith, in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa

Stones that sparked ‘diamond’ rush in South Africa are just quartz

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Unidentified stones that lured thousands of fortune seekers to a rural South African village were not diamonds as hoped, officials said on Sunday, but quartz stones with relatively low if any value.

People from across South Africa travelled to KwaHlathi in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province where villagers had been digging with picks and shovels since 12 June after a herder discovered the first stone in an open field and put out the word.

The provincial executive council member for economic development and tourism, Ravi Pillay, said on Sunday he had counted about 3,000 people there during a visit to the site, where samples were taken to identify the stones.

Hundreds of people digging holes
Fortune-seekers dig for the stones after word spread they could be diamonds. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

“The tests conducted conclusively revealed that the stones discovered in the area are not diamonds as some had hoped,” he said. “The value, if any, of the quartz crystals is yet to be established but it must be mentioned that the value of quartz crystals is very low compared to that of diamonds.”

The event had highlighted the challenges faced by local people, he continued. Like many areas in South Africa, high levels of unemployment and poverty have left communities living hand to mouth.

People in the area also raised concerns about roads and water during the visit, which officials said they would address.

Meanwhile, the number of people mining the land had dwindled to less than 500, Pillay said, though significant damage had already been done with an area of about 5 hectares (12 acres) covered in holes of up to one metre, posing a danger to cattle.

He said those who continued to mine – a situation that also risks the spread of Covid – would be encouraged to leave, and law enforcement could be drawn upon if necessary.

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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