Diamond Part 1

by | Jun 8, 2020 | Love | 1 comment

Although this piece is about Bandile the diamond miner, the underlying subject is forbidden love. I hope you enjoy it.

Bandile is twenty-nine. He works at the Premier Diamond Mine 25 kilometres east of Pretoria in South Africa. His job is to look after the huge machine that tunnels into the prehistoric rock at the rate of hundreds of tonnes a minute. You can’t say that he operates the machine as it is controlled by a computer. All he does is watch for unusual events such as breakdowns and carries out essential maintenance like lubrication and cleaning of the intricate but robust equipment.

Bandile’s passion is cricket. He is a fast bowler for his local team, Cullinan CC. The town is named after the largest diamond ever discovered, the Cullinan diamond and is a ten kilometres from the mine which also used to be named after the gem. The Cullinan diamond was discovered at the mine in 1905. At 3,106.75 carats, it is still the largest rough diamond ever found. The stone was cut into nine gems. The two biggest were presented to King Edward VII in 1908 and now form part of the British Crown Jewels.

Bandile’s job is dangerous as the conditions in the mine are poor. Despite millions of Rand being spent on mining equipment, the health and welfare of the miners is largely ignored. The route to his place in the machine is constructed from concrete steps that are always wet and slippery. His friend Mpho slipped and fell last year and broke his hip. He never returned to work and nor did he bat for Cullinan CC again. Today the conditions are particularly treacherous and Bandile has to hold onto the precarious handrails to avoid a similar fate to his friend. It is while making this descent that he notices a glint from the rock wall as he stoops to move from one flight of steps to the other. Although tiny, the flash, a reflection of the bright arc lights that hang in the chamber, is unmissable and Bandile’s heart skips a beat. He recognises the signs from the material he sees being carried along the heavily protected fines belt to the secure sorting area. Why has he not seen this before?

On the ten kilometre walk back to his home in the town, Bandile cannot stop thinking about the small shape reflecting the light in the chamber wall. When he arrives home, his wife and three children greet him with the same enthusiasm as they do every day. Iminathi and Bandile were childhood sweethearts in the township many years ago. Bandile saved for five years to bring her to Cullinan to be his bride. The two girls and his young son are his life. He only sees them for a few minutes before showering, having dinner and leaving for practice. When practice is over he just has time for supper and a story for the children, before retiring to bed. There are only six hours between then and waking for the two hour walk back to the mine. Practice has gone well, this evening’s training was fielding. Bandile can throw a cricket ball further than any other player, over 120 metres which is just short of the width of their ground.

The next morning, Bandile returns to work, this time through heavy rain and is soaked before he starts his shift. This does not deter him from seeking out his new discovery. It is still there and this time he touches it feeling the glassy smoothness of the small exposed face of the diamond. He continues to his post but spends the whole shift thinking about the stone embedded in its prehistoric home. That night he does not sleep his normal sleep of the dead but lies awake picturing the small facet in the wall. The reward for reporting it would depend on the size but could pay off all of his debts and probably buy a car. Common sense tells him this but when it comes to diamonds and love, common sense goes out of the window. He has to have it. The penalty for theft of a diamond from the mine is twenty years in prison and no house for his family.

The next morning, Bandile sets off for work with a spring in his step, the vision of the glassy chip constantly in his head. On the long journey, he formulates his plan, which fills his head, unlike the empty thoughts of his usual commute.

Everything necessary to execute his plan is packed neatly in his toolbox inside the mining machine. Pick, chisel and hammer are all he needs. Again, depending on its size, the gem may take several days to release from the bedrock surrounding it. Therefore he would also need grout or mortar to cover up his excavations. The mix for this was also in the machine for sealing small fissures in the rock. As he arrives at the mine security system, he is thoroughly searched as usual. This reminds him of his biggest challenge. To get the stone out of the mine compound. This he would think about during the next few shifts.

It takes Bandile six days to expose the gem, each day reinstating his tiny excavation with mortar. He only has two minutes each day to work as there are cameras at either side of the stairway. All the while he is wracking his brain as to how to liberate the stone from the mine. On the seventh day the gem jumps free of its ancient cradle of rock and into Bandile’s huge palm. His fingers wrap around it like his beloved cricket ball. Cricket ball! That’s it! That’s how to liberate his new found love! Arriving at the machine, he wraps the gem in rag and places it in the bottom of the machine’s toolbox. He now has some measuring to do as well as some intense training.

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs

    A challenge.

    Reply

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