KZN govt worried that KwaHlathi 'diamond rush' may be COVID superspreader event

A team of government officials and members of the Council for Geoscience conducted an inspection at the site and confirmed on Sunday that the unearthed stones were actually quartz crystals and not diamonds.

An aerial view shows people digging on 15 June 2021 as they search for what they believe to be diamonds after the recent discovery of unidentified stones at KwaHlathi village near Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: Phill Magakoe/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The KwaZulu-Natal government said that it was concerned that the recent so-called “diamond rush” in KwaHlathi posed a huge threat of COVID-19 infections and may have resulted in serious degradation of the environment.

Stones were collected on a hillside near Ladysmith, where scores of people were digging for what they believed to be diamonds.

Instead, the stones turned out to be quartz crystals.

The area was gripped with excitement after word got out of the discovery of the stones last week.

The hill in KwaHlathi turned into a hive of activity almost overnight last weekend.

This after an unassuming cattle herder set off a "diamond rush" in the village, with hundreds hoping to strike it rich.

A team of government officials and members of the Council for Geoscience conducted an inspection at the site and confirmed on Sunday that the unearthed stones were actually quartz crystals.

KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development MEC Ravi Pillay said that that the activities of desperate residents had highlighted the socio-economic challenges confronting people in the area.

"Part of the response will have to focus on roads and access to water and we'll also formulate a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate the site where digging has taken place."

Pillay was also concerned that the influx of people to the site could turn into a COVID-19 superspreader event.

"We want to use this opportunity to appeal to all those who to vacate the area as what they are involved in is the serious potential of aggravating our COVID-19 crisis."

The value of the crystals is yet to be established, but it is very low compared to diamonds.

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