Unidentified stones that had lured thousands of fortune seekers to a rural South African village hoping to find diamonds have turned out to be quartz, officials have confirmed.
Villagers and visitors from across South Africa had been digging in KwaHlathi in the country’s eastern KwaZulu-Natal province since 12 June, after a herder first discovered the diamond-like stone in an open field.
Samples were taken to identify the stones that were hunted with shovels and picks by 3,000 people who officials say had flocked to the site.
“The tests conducted conclusively revealed that the stones discovered in the area are not diamonds as some had hoped,” said Ravi Pillay, the provincial executive council member for economic development and tourism.
He told a media briefing the stones were in fact quartz crystals, whose value is yet to be established but “is very low compared to that of diamonds”.
Mr Pillay warned the event had highlighted the socio-economic challenges faced by local people.
South Africa’s economy has long suffered from extremely high levels of unemployment, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Pillay said the “diamond rush” had left significant damage, with an area of around 50 hectares covered in holes of up to one metre, posing a danger to cattle.
He said those that continue to mine in the area, a situation that also risks the spread of COVID-19, would be encouraged to leave, though law enforcement could be drawn upon if necessary.
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