Oranjenmund, Namibia — A vast mechanical monster rises from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Namibia, leaving a huge swell in its wake as seawater pours off its surface. The 285-tonne giant, dubbed "the butcher" by its operators, is diamond miner De Beers’ hi-tech tool to collect the precious stones. After several hours of maintenance, the deep-sea vacuum is lowered again into the water on steel cables from the Mafuta vessel. It dredges the ocean bed, sucking thousands of tonnes of silt and sediment onto the ship to be sifted for diamonds. Diminishing returns from its mines in the arid Namib desert prompted De Beers to plot an off-shore future. A flotilla of five vessels armed with undersea suction devices have been scouring the Atlantic seabed for more than 10 years in pursuit of stones washed out to sea by Namibia’s Oranje river. Their initial haul of deep-sea diamonds was a world first, and surprised even the experts leading the project. Last year, Debmarine Namibia, a joint-v...

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