Here's How Much Earth Gets Blasted Away to Extract a Hunk of Diamond

By Maddie Stone on at

If you were ever wondering how much land mass had to be moved to produce that diamond engagement ring, this series of photos should help put things in perspective.

Dillon Marsh, a photographer and artist from Cape Town, describes his ongoing For What It’s Worth series as an attempt to quantify mining, “an industry that has shaped the history and economy of the country so radically.” Last year, Marsh took photos of famous copper mines throughout South Africa, did the maths to figure out how much metal had actually been removed, and inserted an scaled CGI orb of copper into each landscape.

As we all know, diamond is much rarer than copper, so it’s not surprising that running through the same exercise again yields a much smaller amount of precious stone. Still, the sheer volume of Earth that gets blasted away to extract a relatively small amount of diamond is breathtaking. In order to properly depict this, for each mine Marsh captures a zoomed-out image of the entire pit, followed by a close-up of the diamond itself.


Kimberly Mine (1874-1914): 14.5 million carats of diamonds extracted

Here's How Much Earth Gets Blasted Away to Extract a Hunk of Diamond

Here's How Much Earth Gets Blasted Away to Extract a Hunk of Diamond


Koffiefontein Mine (1870 - 2014): 7.6 million carats of diamonds extracted

Here's How Much Earth Gets Blasted Away to Extract a Hunk of Diamond

Here's How Much Earth Gets Blasted Away to Extract a Hunk of Diamond


Jagersfontein Mine (1871 - 1969): 9.52 million carats of diamonds extracted

Here's How Much Earth Gets Blasted Away to Extract a Hunk of Diamond

Here's How Much Earth Gets Blasted Away to Extract a Hunk of Diamond


All images reproduced with permission from Dillon Marsh. You can check out more of his work on his website. [Dillon Marsh via PetaPixel]