In 1907, a German railroad worker, August Stauch, asked fellow workers to keep an eye out for sparkling stones along the railroad tracks in the region. A laborer found a diamond, prompting Stauch to resign from his job and start searching for diamonds. In 1908 he found a few stones and once they were confirmed as diamonds the diamond rush began in Luderitz.
Authorities promptly established a prohibited area where only licensed miners, prospectors and laborers were allowed to go. This diamond area in the Namib desert stretches from the Atlantic Coast to about 100 km inland and from the Orange River, bordering South Africa to 72 km north of Luderitz and covered an area of 26, 000 square km. The diamonds in the desert were found on the surface of what was probably riverbeds in the past. By WW1 about 7 million carats of diamonds had been mined. In 1915 South Africa conquered the German rule over Namibia and by 1920 De Beers owned the diamond rights although under a different name at that stage.
In 1923 De Beers had the exclusive rights to mine for diamonds along the ocean beach from the Orange River north and over 80 years mined 65 million carats of large, high quality diamonds.
During the 1940’s the emphasis of diamond mining shifted to the shores and the sea and the De Beers headquarters relocated to Oranjemund. Since 1961 the majority of mining is along the coast and a few km out to sea and led to the development of mining for the new environment like vacuum extractors, dredgers, probe drilling platforms and floating treatment plants. Since 1994 the government of Namibia set up a new company which owns a 50:50 share with De Beers for mining.
Lüderitz still has several small satellite mines but these days tourism to nearby ghost towns in the desert is its main industry. Today, namibia in general is the 6th largest diamond mining country in the world.
Shallow inshore diamond boat, anchored in Luderitz
This is one of the diamond boats that was anchored near us in Luderitz. Most of Namibia’s diamond mining is marine mining. Divers operate within 30 m of either the shore or a small vessel. The dives then use air lift dredging where they use the suction hose vacuums to suck up the alluvial gravel. When the gravel gets to the surface its sorted and screened. Larger vessels use dredgers to suck up the alluvial gravel and go to depths of between 30 – 80 meters.