The Namibian coastline is regionally straight in aspect and trends approximately NNW and located on the so-called Benguela Coastline; a dynamically-active region characterised by colliding currents, standing waves, upwelling cells and variable and intense wind fields. This interaction between orography, wind and coastal processes, particularly upwelling, has formed and maintained an active arid zone, the Namib Desert. The aeolian geomorphology dominated by the strong, predominantly southerly, wind regime characterised by extremely strong constant, mainly southerly winds. Geologically, the present day coastal climate and oceanographic conditions have been fully established since the Late Miocene (16-11my).
Diamonds have been available to the Namibian coastline, via the Orange River mouth, since about the Mid Pliocene, a period of 2.5my, and have been progressively swept northward, accumulating in favourable traps. Trap sites include palaeochannels, palaeo-strandlines, planation surfaces, embayments, rock fabric, gravels and aeolian corridors.
Diamonds were first discovered in Namibia, then German South West Africa, in the vicinity of Kolmaskuppe on a railway construction site in April 1908. A railway construction worker, Zacharia Lewela, found the first diamond, which he passed to his supervisor August Dtrauch, an employee of the Deutsche Koloniale Gesellenschaft (DKG), responsible for keeping the newly constructed railway between Luderitz and Keetmanshoop clear of Sand. On the 20th June 1098, Stauch reported the find to the DKG and applied for a prospecting license.By AUgust of that year most of the land north of Pomona, owned by the DKG, had been peffed and prospecting licenses held by numerous syndicates with 50-year concession leases issued by the DKG. Shortly afterwards, the German Government, in association with the DKG decreed the coastal strip, extending some 350km northward of the Orange River mouth a restricted Sperrgebiet, within which the DKG had the sole right to mine. The first account of diamonds in North Namibia was in 1910, when a land surveyor of the German Schutztruppe allegedly found a 2.5ct diamond at Cape Cross. A 3.75ct yellow diamond was also found south of the Omaruru River mouth in 1910.
In 1910, the Guano Islands (Possession, Halifax, Seal, Ichaboe and Pomona), which belonged to the Union of South Africa, were visited atnf 223.5cts of diamonds recovered from the gravels on Possession Island, which lay immediately above the high water mark on the southern end of the island. No diamonds were found on the other islands, This venture was abandoned due to the extreme difficulties in mining logistics. At this time, the Kolonial Bergbau Gesellschaft and the Deutsche Diamanten Gesellschaft controlled the whole of the diamond fields of German South West Africa. The diamonds were sold via the Diamond Regie, a forerunner of the Diamond Syndicate.
Trial pits, sunk along the Orange River band yielded diamonds at depth, and considering the then current theory that diamonds were derived from a marine source, by Imperial decree the German Government vested all rights in diamonds on the sea floor in the colonial treasury. Following abandonment of the operations on Possession Island, a syndicate from Cape Town chartered a coaster, the Nautilus, and successfully tested the sea bottom for diamonds. Unfortunately, whilst trying to escape gun boats in the fog, as the vessel was operating within the three-mile limit, the Nautilus struck the reef and became wedged.
During WW 1, the territory was occupied by South Africa and in 1919, De Beers Consolidated Mines of South West Africa (CDM) were formed and secured a 50-year lease on the entire area north of the Orange River, known as Diamond Area No.1. In 1927, the South African Government extended the Sperrgebiet and began to control the market and the price of diamonds.
An extensive investigation of the beach gravels between Swakopmund and the Kunene River mouth was undertaken between 1943 and 1947, and located the deposits of Terrace Bay. Diamonds were later found in various coastal deposits, over a distance of 1,000km, between the Olifants River in South Africa and Hottentot Bay in Namibia.
In the late 1950's a sheep farmer, Johan Vivier and his partners, the Van Zyl brothers acquired a sub-concession extending seaward in a line between the high and low water marks on what was known as Admiralty Strip (Orange River mouth -320km northward of Diaz Point), and included some of the islands, extending seawards to the 200m isobath. By 1961, Vivier had conclusive proof diamonds were present on the sea floor and the concession was sold to Sam Collins and associates. Sam Collins' Marine Diamond Corporation (MDC) became the operating arm of Sea Diamonds Corporation and in 1963 De Beers entered into an agreement with MDC. Between 1961 and 1970 1.5 million carats of diamonds were produced from South West African sea concessions. The area is recognised as one of the richest diamond deposits in the world. Although numerous small companies have come and gone, diamonds are now mined successfully offshore Namibia, currently by Diamond Fields International, De Beers & the Republic of Namibia (Namdeb Holdings/Debmarine Namibia), Samicor, Trans Hex and Afri-Can Mineraux Marins.
Currently, Debmarine Namibia are operating six mining vessels in the Atlantic 1 license area.