Gemstones that sparked a diamond rush to eastern South Africa last week have turned out to be just quartz, according to preliminary findings presented on Sunday.
Thousands of people flocked to a hillside in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province to dig for mysterious stones first unearthed by a cattle herder and believed to be diamonds.
The rush prompted the South African government to send geoscientists and mining experts to collect samples for testing.
The results quashed the dreams of diggers hoping to come up with a fortune.
“The tests conducted conclusively revealed that the stones discovered in the area are not diamonds,” a local government statement said.
“In fact, what has been discovered are quartz crystals,” it said, adding that the yet-to-determined value of the stones would be “very low” compared with diamonds.
The report said the site — more than 300km southeast of Johannesburg — was near a sill of volcanic rock called dolerite, “which is not in a zone where diamond occurrences are present.”
It added that quartz crystals were common across a sedimentary basin known as the Karoo Supergroup, which stretches over the site, and particularly abundant along the dolerite sill.
The prospect of finding a diamond had sent ripples of hope across one of South Africa’s poorest regions and beyond.
The nation, renowned for its mineral wealth, has struggled with decades of spiraling unemployment worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The diamond rush “highlighted the socioeconomic challenges confronting people in the area,” the statement said.
The South African government reiterated its call for people to vacate the area, citing COVID-19 risks and environmental degradation.
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