Vijayawada

The lure of the precious stone

Diamond stones | File   | Photo Credit: K.V. Srinivasan

Kimberlite rock pipes are the most important source of mined diamonds today, and Vajrakarur and adjoining mandals in Anantapur district are rich with the mineral. A British-era 120-metre well that was used for mining Kimberlite rock for diamonds is now defunct. The well-known Florentine and Bazu diamonds were found here.

For the Geological Survey of India and National Mineral Development Corporation, some new locations in Anantapur district have shown hope, and the processing plant at Vajrakarur, which stopped functioning in 2017, might begin operations soon if promising mineral deposits are identified. Banaganapalle in Kurnool once produced close to 64 carats of diamond from 100 tonnes of mineral, but in Vajrakarur it seems to have come down to even 2 carats from 100 tonnes.

Mineral that is the condensed form of molten lava from earth’s crust has small diamond crystals embedded in it and found especially where red soils are present. These red soils also had free-floating diamonds and such locations are plenty in Kurnool, Anantapur and Kadapa districts with Jonnagiri, Vajrakarur, Tuggali, and Pathikonda being very popular among people hunting for freely available diamonds in the topsoil.

Fields become hotspots

Jonnagiri in Kurnool district and Vajrakarur in Anantapur find a place in news columns every other year when someone or other finds a precious diamond that changes their life forever. With very little farming activity, many treasure hunters have turned these groundnut fields as hotspots for illegal prospecting whenever it rains, and pre-monsoon rains in the last week of May witnessed increased activity in these locations. Some of the locations such as Tuggali, Sirvella, Maddikera, and Pagidirai see people coming from Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and adjoining districts of Kurnool.

The lure of the precious stone
 

When The Hindu team visited Vajrakarur and Jonnagiri after showers on Sunday and Monday, it found tens of people searching for diamonds and quartz. Old and the young alike reached the fields being prepared for sowing groundnut in Vajrakarur and keenly observed any reflection from a shining object in the ground that getst exposed after the rain due to soil runoff. These small locations are again rich in Kimberlite mineral.

But, the story locals believe is river Penna once used to flow in this region and over millions of years, the waterflow collected and deposited some of these diamonds in Vajrakarur, Pathikonda and several other places en route. Now the river flows many kilometres away from here changing its course.

Testing their luck

People from Pamidi, Uravakonda, Vajrakarur, Guntakal and far off places like Ballari in Karnataka and Guntur/Prakasam in Andhra Pradesh landed for testing their luck in Vajrakarur. In Jonnagiri last week, two persons seem to have struck luck in the fields thereby finding two stones that fetched them ₹1.5 lakh and ₹50,000, and that prompted people to come to Vajrakarur too.

 

The bus-station, temples, common public places were full of people taking rest as they stay put for days together to test their luck every morning or whenever it rains. Locals say the activity continues till November-end when the northwest monsoon ends. There are people who come from far off places with no money even to have a two square meals a day. Begging for food is a common sight during this season.

People have taken houses on rent for four to five months paying nearly ₹3,000 per month, drawn by the lure of diamonds and have gone back broke, unable to pay for their return journey sometimes.

Diamonds are cubic, while other similar stones like quartz are hexagonal. People collect every possible stone that they think could fetch them money, and local traders in these districts, who have some knowledge, keep the spirit of these treasure hunters intact by paying some paltry sum so that they might bring in the real diamond one day.

Taken for a ride

Differentiating a diamond from the quartz is important, and cheating takes place rampantly at these locations with hunters making a fast buck passing off a quartz as a diamond to some enthusiasts. Looking down on the crystals from the top, with the point of the crystal aimed at your eye, quartz will have six sides and a diamond four sides.

People even put up tents in Jonnagiri during their stay in the fields. There have been instances where people found diamonds fetching them ₹30,000 to ₹2 lakh.

(With inputs from Tadi Vidura in Kurnool)


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 7:53:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/the-lure-of-the-precious-stone/article27401224.ece

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