Weekends are usually a time to rest after stressful working days, but Mr. Salim, 47, a diamond digger in Indonesia, still works hard.
On a scorching Sunday, Salim was still soaking in waist-high water at the Cempaka mine in Banjarbaru city, South Kalimantan, hoping to find a valuable diamond.
Theo Channel News Asia, Salim has been doing this work for the past 25 years. Every day, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., he sits in the sand to search for diamonds and gold with a round cone-shaped tool.
“I don’t find diamonds every day. It depends on my luck,” Salim said. “There were times when I worked all week and couldn’t find any.”
With luck, Salim can collect about half a gram of gold per day, as there are gold mines in the area as well.
However, the money Salim earns is not enough to support his 4-year-old child and wife. On average, he earns less than a million Rupiah ($66) a month.
Spontaneous mining of diamonds and gold by traditional methods has been practiced by many individuals in the region for many years. In addition to the problem of unstable income, there are safety concerns because the mine is prone to landslides.
The government has been trying to help diamond miners switch to more stable and safer jobs, such as farming. However, given the lack of skills and experience in this workforce, job transitions are also challenging.
Ahmad Yani, head of Banjarbaru’s tourism agency, said the local government plans to convert the mine into an educational site next year for tourists to learn about how gold and gems are mined. tradition and history of this place.
Diamond miners will act as tour guides on this tour, and Mr. Yani hopes tourism will not only create jobs for locals, but also provide income. for local government.
Cenpaka is one of the largest diamond mines in Indonesia.
In August 1965, the mine made headlines when gem diggers found a diamond weighing 166.75 carats – roughly the size of a pigeon’s egg.
The diamond was brought to Jakarta in early September. Indonesian President at the time Mr. Sukarno named it Trisakti, which means threefold in Sanskrit.
It was estimated that the diamond was worth trillions of rupiah at the time.
The Trisakti is not the only large diamond discovered in Cempaka.
In 1850, a diamond weighing 106.7 carats was discovered in this mine. Four years earlier, diamond diggers discovered a 20-carat diamond.
Uncertain income and many risks Diamond miners like Mr. Salim do not have a stable income.
Muhammad Yusuf, 50, has worked at the diamond mine for about 30 years “because he had no other choice”, and his eldest son also works there.
Yusuf said that his son did not go to secondary school, because the family did not have enough money to pay for his education.
However, both father and son understand that the golden age of diamond mining is over, as finding diamonds is more difficult these days than before.
Salim remembers the heyday when thousands of people used to dig diamonds in his mine. But today, only a few hundred people continue to dig sand for gems in the area.
In addition to income, there are also safety concerns.
Mr. Purbani from the local tourism agency said that diamond mining is a dangerous profession. Landslides are one of the biggest concerns.
At least three people were killed in two landslides in July 2021. Previously, in April 2019, 5 diamond miners were killed in a sudden landslide.
So what will happen to the market if traditional mining is no longer operating?
Mr. Kanafi from the local planning agency said that the diamond industry will still exist, as there are miners using modern methods to ensure supply to the market.