Martapura Traditional Diamond Mining | AZ's Blog
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AZ's Blog | Indonesia Photograher / Editorial  / Tear Sheets : In the Rough

Tear Sheets : In the Rough

In Cempaka, miners still look for diamonds using traditional methods.

Mines around the city of Martapura, known as the “city of diamonds,” have been famous for centuries for producing diamonds
of exceptional quality, brilliance and color. During the 18th century, the Dutch produced out of this area in South Kalimantan some 50,000 carats a year. The year 1965 was the apex of Martapura’s fame when a 166 carat pink diamond, known as the “Trisakti diamond,” was found in the region. Some two decades later, in 1985, a large raw diamond of 117 carats was found, followed by another diamond of 197 carats that was found in 2008, although Borneo’s status as a diamond producer has long been on the wane, surpassed by other locations.
Small-scale traditional mining continues to this day in Cempaka, a modest village near Martapura, using techniques changed little by modern technology. Miners here use only the most basic of tools to search for the valuable stones. The diamonds, when found, are usually buried in gravel and muddy sediments at depths of about 10 meters. The miners work in groups of about 15, using baskets to haul up the muddy sediment, which is then washed in conical bowls which are swirled around.

By using this traditional method, lighter material is collected towards the outside edge of the bowl, while the heavier diamonds collect at the bottom. Every dig hole is owned by a landlord, who gets 20% of the earnings of the hole, while 10% goes to the equipment owner and the final 70% is split amongst the miners.





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