South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy ordered people searching for diamonds near the town of Ladysmith to disperse as it began to investigate the validity of claims made on social media.
The site of the alleged diamond find is located about 360 kilometers (224 miles) southeast of Johannesburg. “Images and videos have been circulating on social media where some involved in the illegal mining are seen celebrating in belief that they had struck it rich,” the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government said in its own post on Twitter.
The race to find diamonds shows desperation among people struggling to find income in an economy severely hit by the pandemic. The unemployment rate in Africa’s most-industrialised nation rose to a record 32.6% in the first quarter. Meanwhile, diamond prices have been rising all year, with De Beers increasing its prices at almost every auction so far this year.
The minerals department “is dispatching a task team comprising of geological and mining experts to the area to determine the veracity of the stories and to conduct a proper inspection of the site, and of what has been discovered in the area,” it said Monday in a statement. The department and the province called “for calm and patience” while the task team conducts preliminary investigations.