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Digging up the Earth

This lesson begins by exploring diamonds as a natural resource before moving on to look at rare earths

Key questions

Where do diamonds come from? 
How do diamonds get from the ground to jewellery shops? 
What are rare earths? 
What are rare earths used for?


Watch this video about how diamonds are formed. 

How are diamonds formed?

After the video explain to a partner how diamonds are formed using the knowledge you have gained from the video. 

Write down three words you associate with diamonds. Collect these from other members of the class to create a word cloud. Go to the Wordle website. What are the most common words associated with diamonds? What does this tell you about this natural resource? 

Main Activity

This lesson begins by exploring diamonds as a natural resource before moving on to look at rare earths. 

Download the Diamond statements PPT and decide if you think these are true or false. Be prepared to justify your answer to the rest of the class. 

The teacher should reveal the correct answers and provides some more detail about the diamond industry. To accompany this download the Diamond PPT. 

For diamonds to travel from the ground to consumers there are several key stages including exploration, mining, sorting, polishing, dealing, jewellery manufacturing and ultimately retail. This process will vary in length of time depending on where the diamonds are found and their size. The next activity explores how diamonds are produced and how they reach their ends users (customers). You will explore the different stages that are involved in the production of diamond jewellery from the exploration of where diamond deposits may be found to retailers selling expensive jewellery. 

Download the diamond production cards. These should be cut into pieces and arranged in the correct order to show the different stages of diamond production. 

The second half of the lesson should focus on rare earths.

Have you heard of rare earths? If so, what are they used for? If not, what do you think they are? 

Watch this short video on the BBC website to find out more about rare earths. 

Then read this short article on the BBC website in groups to try and answer the questions: What are rare earths, and why are they important?


Download the plenary PPT to view a map of where diamonds production and rare earth production. Identify the different distribution patterns. What are the key differences in distribution? If these maps were to have information about where the diamonds and rare earths would be exported to which countries would then become included in these maps? 

Extension Activities

While there has been a lot of attention paid to the growth of the diamond industry, less focuses on the potential decline in the future. 

Watch this video from the Financial Times, which considers why diamond production may decline and identify reasons why this might be the case. 
Diamond Production to Decline. 

Diamond production to decline in 2020