There are not many diamond miners up the Lomami. But is that because there are not many diamonds? Or is it only because prospection is just getting started? There are some disturbing signs.
- The gems are not small. At least they don’t seem to me to be small. This photo of two diamonds “in hand” is what they showed us at the camp on the Lokomue, a tributary of the Lomami just north of Obenge. We were surprised to see miners there. We thought we had seen the last of the miners 300 km and four days earlier. We thought the diamond “sluicers” on the Lutanga River just south of Opala were the last we would see. But not so.
- There was a Congolese “prospector” looking for diamonds in the village of Lisala, not far north from Katopa. He said that he had not found much but there was every reason (like I might have been a competitor) that he would not tell me the truth.
- The chief of the village of Lisala told me privately “there are lots of diamonds in our river” , and he waved his hand in the direction of a tributary of the Lomami. “We are just waiting for you people to come and take them”.
A diamond mining camp just north of Obenge
This is what is disturbing in all of this. If there are really diamonds, soon there will be lots of artisanal miners. Just like Terese saw north of Kisangani. And remote diamond camps live off of bushmeat. For now the Lomami forests are still rich with animals, but diamond camps would turn them silent and still.
The oldest men remember diamond prospectors of the colonial era, but only from the northern Lomami