Last week in a conversation someone brought up the fact that Elon Musk was born into wealth – stating that his family owned an emerald mine in South Africa.
I’d never heard this before (didn’t care that much either way) but figured I’d investigate the rumor and find out more (out of sheer curiosity).
I initially searched Twitter and there were hordes of malicious “tweets” from various individuals upset about Elon buying Twitter, taking it private, promoting “free speech.”
In these tweets, the angry tweeters claimed and/or implied that Elon Musk is only wealthy and successful today because his father, Errol Musk, profited off of a Zambian emerald mine during apartheid.
Note: My goal is not to defend Elon Musk here – I’m just trying to separate fact vs. fiction (BS).
Origins of the Elon Musk, Errol Musk “Emerald Mine” story…
Forbes Interview (2014) (R)
Elon Musk alluded to Errol Musk’s emerald mine ownership in a 2014 Forbes interview with Jim Clash:
“In South Africa, my father had a private plane we’d fly in incredibly dangerous weather and barely make it back. This is going to sound slightly crazy, but my father also had a share in an Emerald mine in Zambia.
I was 15 and really wanted to go with him but didn’t realize how dangerous it was. I couldn’t find my passport so I ended up grabbing my brother’s – which turned out to be six months overdue!
So we had this planeload of contraband and an overdue passport from another person. There were AK-47s all over the place and I’m thinking, ‘Man, this could really go bad’.”
Business Insider (February 28, 2018): “Elon Musk’s Family Once Owned an Emerald Mine in Zambia” (R)
Errol Musk, Elon Musk’s father, was interviewed by Business Insider Zambia (ZA) in 2018.
- In this interview, Errol claimed that he was flying from South Africa to England to sell his plane – and a young Elon joined him for the flight.
- Errol reflected on the trip: “We were going to fly into Jeddah and there was a religious holiday and they said if we come in now we have to pay $2000 – but if we wait 10 days we can come in at no charge. So we decided to head back to Lake Tanganyika from where we were, I think we were in Djibouti.”
- While in Djibouti, Errol Musk happened to encounter a group of wealthy Italians who were in the market for an airplane – Errol named his price and the deal was done.
- Errol: “So we went to this guy’s prefab and he opened his safe and there was just stacks of money and he paid me out, £80000, it was a huge amount of money.”
- With cash in hand, Errol was offered to buy half an emerald mine for half of his new riches (£40000) – and he agreed to the deal.
- Errol: “So I became a half-owner of the mine, and we got emeralds for the next 6 years.”
- Apparently Errol hired an emerald cutter in Johannesburg and sold the emeralds in whichever locations his travels as an engineer or family holidays took him.
Business Insider (Feb 23, 2018): “We had so much money, we couldn’t even close our safe.” (R)
According to Business Insider following Errol Musk interview…
- Elon Musk casually walked around with valuable emeralds in his pockets.
- Elon Musk (~16 years old) & Kimbal Musk sold gems from the Zambian emerald mine to world-famous “Tiffany & Co.” on Fifth Avenue in New York – one of the world’s most famous jewelers.
- Elon and Kimbal allegedly sold 2 emeralds: one worth $800 and another worth $1200.
- Days after selling the emeralds to Tiffany & Co., Elon allegedly saw the $800 emerald set in a ring retailing for $24,000 – a 30-fold markup for Elon’s selling price.
- Apparently Errol was surprised by this, but not concerned because the Musk family was (according to Errol): “very wealthy.” How wealthy? Errol stated: “We had so much money at times we couldn’t even close our safe.” (One person would hold the money in place and another would slam the safe door.)
- Errol claimed that Elon grew up watching him sell emeralds all over the world – after having them cut in Johannesburg.
(Note: Business Insider reached out to Elon Musk for corroboration of Errol Musk’s claims – but he did not reply. Reasons for not replying? Perhaps didn’t receive the message due to sheer amount of mail or just didn’t want to get involved.)
How the “emerald mine” story evolved (added misinformation)…
The emerald mining story published in 2018 has continued to evolve on social media well into 2022 – with a variety of erroneous details added, possibly to intentionally smear the reputation of Elon.
- Errol Musk owned an emerald mine connected to the apartheid (i.e. policy or system of segregation/discrimination on the grounds of race).
- Emeralds from the emerald mine associated with the apartheid are the primary reason the Musk family became wealthy – giving Elon the best education and greater privilege than others.
- Elon Musk inherited or leveraged profits from Errol Musk’s emerald mine fortune to start Zip2, Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, Neuralink, etc.
- @tazerface16: “Most folks don’t know this, but Elon Musk is not a degreed engineer. His family owned an emerald mine in South Africa until Apartheid ended. He leveraged his Paypal lottery winnings in order ot take over Tesla, a company that he did not found.”
- @ranaforcongress: “Since this is probably the last day I can tweet this, can I just remind folks that Elon Musk is a union-busting billionaire who inherited money from his dad’s apartheid-era emerald mines? Tax the rich + unionize Twitter now!”
- @michaelharriot: “Sometimes I forget that Elon Musk has always been a privileged rich kid & Elon Musk’s daddy owned an emerald mine & Elon Musk walked around with jewels in his pockets & Elon Musk didn’t start Tesla, he just ousted the founders & Elon Musk has never invested anything…”
- @RyanMarino: “Elon, it is illegal to give medical advice without a license even if you are the world’s richest man & even if mommy & daddy made you a colonial emerald mine millionaire since birth.” (This is from an MD upset that Elon gave his opinion – not advice – about the drug Wellbutrin.)
- @jeligon: “Elon Musk grew up in a South Africa that saw that dangers of unchecked speech: Apartheid govt propaganda fueled violence against Black people. Musk didn’t experience that. He grew up in a bubble of white privilege.”
- @zachheltzel: “Elon Musk is a rich kid from a family that profited off emerald mining in apartheid South Africa who bought out the actual founders of Tesla. He’s never been anything but a self-promoter. In a way, he’s always been the Trump of Silicon Valley.”
- @rafaelshimunov: “If you’re writing about Elon Musk and red pilling, but not talking about growing up wealthy and white in apartheid South Africa to parents who owned an emerald mine, you’re not doing journalism.”
- @theonion: “The richest person in every state and how they made their money. Elon Musk, Texas: Apartheid.”
- Reaction #1: Elon has been trying to weave a mythical tale of his upbringing, but the facts show he was born wealthy and was never poor. He also didn’t start PayPal or Tesla.
- Reaction #2: His family owns several South African gemstone mines, and are rumored to be involved in the conflict diamond trade. He got into Stanford and Wharton because he’s from a rich family. Someone has been editing Musk’s Wikipedia page to conform more to his cult of personality than objective reality, and it should not be considered accurate.
- Reaction #3: Elon Musk is the beneficiary of every benefit capitalism can give. He’s the latest sociopathic modern robber baron, up there with Gates, Bezos, and Zuckerberg.
Elon Musk’s responses re: Emerald mining allegations
He didn’t own an emerald mine & I worked my way through college, ending up ~$100k in student debt. I couldn’t even afford a 2nd PC at Zip2, so programmed at night & website only worked during the day. Where is this bs coming from?
I left South Africa by myself when I was 17 with just a backpack & suitcase of books. Worked on my Mom’s cousin’s farm in Saskatchewan & a lumber mill in Vancouver. Went to Queens Univ with scholarship & debt, then same to UPenn/Wharton & Stanford.
– I arrived by myself in Canada in ‘89 with ~CA$2500
– Paid my own way through college, ending with ~$100k student debt
– Started 1st company with no funding & just one computer I built
– There’s no evidence whatsoever of an “emerald mine”
My father & his extended family have been dependent on financial support from my brother & me for over 20 years.
We started Zip2 with ~$2k from me plus my overclocked home-built PC, ~$5k from my bro & ~$8k from Greg Kouri (such a good guy — he is greatly missed).
My Dad provided 10% of a ~$200k angel funding round much later, but by then risk was reduced & round would’ve happened anyway.
Are Elon’s tweets accurate?
The initial statement implying that his father (Errol) didn’t own an emerald mine is inaccurate.
Why? Both Elon and Errol admitted in separate interviews (2014 & 2018) that Errol owned part of an emerald mine.
The statement “there’s no evidence whatsoever of an ’emerald mine'” – may be technically accurate (as there may no longer be significant evidence that it existed – as the operation was “off books.”)
Perhaps Elon hoped to emphasize that his father: (A) does NOT still own an emerald mine and/or (B) was NOT sole owner of an emerald mine.
The remaining information in Elon’s tweets seems to be accurate.
Errol Graham Musk’s response (Facebook: July 27, 2020) (R)
Included below is the full-length Facebook post (copied in case of removal) by Errol Graham Musk (Elon’s father) clarifying details of the Business Insider articles and addressing various misinformation/rumors that spread following publication.
I refer to an article by Bisnews (attached). The general story is correct, and importantly the article correctly states “it lasted for 5 years”. But the overall implication is that ‘great income was wrongly acquired’. Initially this trade was fairly good, but it collapsed in 1989 when Russia began producing perfect lab-emeralds at one tenth the price. Income from this source consequently abruptly died.
But I do believe your article is an opportunity to publish some facts, and that is to fairly state my family’s views and position at that time.
To imply, however obtusely, that a White South African growing up in South Africa at that time was by default a supporter of Apartheid is not only unfair but also insulting. Neither I, nor any one of my family, supported Apartheid. Quite the contrary. Were this the case then it would imply that all Americans supported slavery and consequently benefited from it because they were born in the United States, or every German supported the holocaust and genocide of the Jewish people because they were born in Germany.
One is born into a country and a system and even though one may not support the system one still remains a citizen of that nation. There is not a ‘choice’ involved. In terms of my son Elon, even before the usual legal age, on completing his schooling, he chose to leave South Africa. I believe this is a clear indication of his willingness to not support the political suppression in the country. Let me add that for a young man aged 17 to make this decision may sound easy and simple but it was not, and yet he stuck to his guns. What is factual is that both my sons refused to serve in the legislated mandatory military service of South Africa as we all deemed this to be inappropriate (In fact there is even an early Youtube interview going back several years where Kimbal so states). So if you were you publish a new article that says a boy of 17, who did everything he could to not support the system of Apartheid and oppression in his country of birth, South Africa, and who made the intentional decision to leave as soon as he could, it would be the correct thing to do. Blaming Elon for Apartheid or benefitting from Apartheid is totally wrong, unfair and unacceptable. I would like to add the following: 1. Instead of broad statements and unfair statements generally maligning me and my family and the success Elon has achieved (by himself I might add) in the United States let me rather present to you the following that I Errol Musk did to oppose the system of Apartheid:
As early as 1972 aged 25 I ran and was elected a Pretoria City Councillor. This made me the first progressive, English speaking Pretoria City Councillor in 24 years and the first person to run a successful campaign and win against the Apartheid National Party government at that time. I was active in opposing the Nationalist Party and their Apartheid. I did not run away. I made an effort and an attempt to address change as best as I could. Not only did I attempt to enter the political spectrum to try and change the status quo I actually successfully ran for other positions and was elected. Sadly it was always a David and Goliath situation at the time. But it clearly demonstrates my views and a desire to change South Africa. Please appreciate that in those days opposition to the Apartheid regime was done at considerable risk to me and my family. 2. The emerald mine association and the linkage you present is wrong. For your reference on 24th October, 1964, Zambia became an independent nation: a country and political system independent of the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Kenneth Kaunda became the first president. Zambia became an independent nation allowing its people (men and women) to vote for a democratically elected government even before the Voting Rights Act was passed in the United States allowing Black women the right to vote! Furthermore The United States established diplomatic relations with Zambia in 1964, following its independence from the United Kingdom. So my very limited involvement in a business transaction in Zambia in the 1980’s had nothing to do with South Africa and that business can hardly be deemed to be have been inappropriate. Neither was it beneficial to Elon’s success in the USA, starting in about 1999.
Finally, it is necessary to acknowledge the wrong and oppressive nature of Apartheid and we do need to recognise the pain and suffering it caused for many South Africans, but I do not feel it is fair to associate any of that with what Elon has achieved through hard work since he left South African shores as a teenager of 17.
Note: Pieter Van Niekerk, partner of Errol Musk in a consulting engineering business in Pretoria, corroborated the article stating: “everything he states in the article is correct.”
Jeremy Arnold Contacts the Musk family for additional details… (R)
Jeremy Arnold from The Save Journalism Committee is among the only person I’m aware of who bothered doing a deep-dive investigation on the Elon Musk “emerald mine” stories/rumors – in attempt to separate fact from fiction.
Arnold directly contacted and questioned various members of the Musk family including: Elon Musk, Kimbal Musk, and Errol Musk.
Below are some additional details courtesy of Jeremy Arnold’s interview and information gathering.
Emerald mining operation (details)
- Errol apparently had “very limited involvement” in the emerald mining process – and there was no official/formalized ownership.
- The mining operation was allegedly a “handshake deal” with a Panamanian man that generated ~110 emeralds up front – followed by an intermittent trickle of rough/uncut gems thereafter.
- Although the Panamanian man in charge of the mining operation has been deceased since 2019, Errol stated that his widow might be able to comment for corroboration.
- Because there was zero paperwork for the emerald mining operation (everything was off-the-books) – it’s not possible to independently verify the details (e.g. number of emeralds obtained; sizes of each emerald; average sale price/profit; etc.).
- Elon vaguely remembers seeing a small jewelry box with low-quality emeralds in childhood.
- According to Errol: the emerald mine deal was facilitated in the mid-1980s and operation lasted until 1989 – whereafter it no longer was profitable (due to competition from Russia – flooding the emerald market with lower-cost, lab-made synthetics).
- The emerald mine was located in Zambia – and at the time of the deal it had already been removed from British rule for ~20 years. Additionally, the ruling party in the mid-1980s called “UNIP” was a leader in anti-apartheid/anti-colonialist policies.
- In other words, the emeralds obtained in Errol Musk’s Zambian mining operation were not “blood emeralds” – profiting off of apartheid-associated racism, slavery, etc.
- Errol Musk also claims that only 60-70% of the emeralds he sold were from his emerald mine – the rest were obtained from other sources.
How much money did Errol Musk earn from emerald mining?
Even if the emerald mining operation was not associated with the apartheid, many are still curious about how much Errol Musk profited.
Because everything was “off books” (financial records weren’t kept), the only information we have is Errol Musk’s word – which is the primary reason this story even exists/gained traction.
Jeremy Arnold examined 2 “varying/imprecise” sets of numbers: (1) one to Elon’s family office and (2) one to Jeremy Arnold.
Arnold then converted the value of South African Rand from the 1980s to present-day USD. A limitation here is that there were zero ledgers to quantify anything – so precision should not be expected.
The quoted 1980s profits were R420,000 – which Errol suggested as being worth approximately R4.2M as of ~2020. As of 2022, 4.2M South African Rand = ~$261,187 USD in profits.
Assuming that: (A) my math is correct and (B) Errol’s numbers are accurate – then, after adjusting for inflation, he would’ve earned about $111,000 (1989 dollars) in profit.
Since he spent £40000 ($49,327 USD) on the emerald mine investment in around 1985, a profit of around $111,000 means that Errol Musk essentially doubled (~2.25X) his initial investment over a ~5-year period before the mining operation ended in 1989.
It should be noted that Errol Musk viewed emerald sales as a sort of “side hustle” or “adventure hobby” – not as his primary occupation.
Although the economy crashed in the late 1980s and Errol’s businesses collapsed – including emerald mining, income from the emerald mining operation was NOT a significant percentage of his overall earnings.
Errol Musk was an electromechanical engineer, consultant, and property developer – and did not depend on emerald mining as a significant income source.
Did Errol Musk’s wealth help Elon Musk? (Dat Emerald $ doe)
- In some capacity, probably. Errol Musk obviously had sufficient financial resources to afford basic things like food, water, shelter, healthcare, education, and perhaps a safe living environment in South Africa for Elon – such that he may have been in a better position than those with fewer resources. There’s no evidence that he lived a luxurious lifestyle though. (But we can always play the comparison game – life isn’t “fair”).
- Elon left South Africa in 1989. At age 17, Elon Musk exited South Africa and immigrated to Canada with just $2000 (assuming this figure is the amount in 1989 – not present day value). Assuming the $2000 is 1989 value – then it would be equal to about $4,637 in 2022 value.
- Errol Musk thought Elon would fail. For various reasons, Errol Musk thought Elon would not make it in North America (Canada & USA) due to the fact that he didn’t have significant financial support and would need to make it on his own.
- Sleeping on couches, working the farm, living cheap. Elon Musk slept on couches of distant relatives in Canada – working as a farmhand and at a lumber mill, living very cheaply (few expenses). In other words, Errol Musk didn’t buy Elon some Toronto high-rise penthouse suite or give him money to attend college. (R)
- Small apartment in Toronto. Elon Musk’s mother and sister followed him into Canada in 1990 – and his brother Kimbal joined them in 1991. The Musk family lived in a small, rent-controlled apartment in Toronto. (Again – not living a high-roller lifestyle courtesy of Zambian gems.)
- Elon left university with $100K in student debt. Elon attended university and eventually dropped out with $100K in student loan debt.
- Elon’s college roommate (Adeo Ressi). Told Jeremy Arnold that Elon was interested in being his roommate because he wanted to run an underground nightclub in the house – using the money that came from this nightclub to pay for rent/food. Claimed that he purchased “rusty desk” purchased from Goodwill and spray-painted it with bright/fluorescent colors, only to find Elon using it. When questioned, Elon said: “I needed a desk, and I could not afford one. A desk is a desk.”
Did Errol Musk transfer money to Elon Musk in America?
According to Jeremy Arnold, Errol Musk did transfer money to Elon Musk while Elon was living in the U.S.A.
The money transfer was for $20,000 to $30,000 into Elon’s company Zip2 – and occurred in December 1995.
This money was NOT used to help found or sustain Zip2 – as Zip2 was well-established and profitable. Just around 1 month after Errol’s investment, Zip2 sold for ~100x its valuation.
Most likely scenario? Elon informs Errol that he’s shopping Zip2 around (for a seller) – such that any immediate investment could yield a substantial return. Errol then puts $20-30K into the company and awaits the sale.
Following finalization of the Zip2 sale in 1999, Elon returned ~$400,000 to Errol Musk (from his original $20-30K investment).
What’s likely true? (Elon, Errol, Emeralds)
Included below are what we can conclude to be “likely true” regarding Elon Musk, Errol Musk, and the emerald mining story/rumors.
Nothing can be 100% verified – as the story originated via word-of-mouth from both Errol and Elon – otherwise it probably wouldn’t even be known.
- Errol Musk once owned part of an emerald mine: Nobody is disputing this. Details about this actually surfaced in 2014 from Elon Musk in an interview with Forbes – and were later solidified in 2018 via a Business Insider interview with Errol Musk.
- Emerald mine operation lasted ~5 years (collapsing in 1989): Errol Musk stated that the Business Insider interview was accurate in stating that his emerald trade lasted about 5 years from the mid-to-late 1980s (1985-1989). The emerald trade collapsed in 1989 when Russia began producing perfect lab-emeralds at 1/10th the price of those from emerald mines. Income from this source completely died before 1990.
- Errol doubled his investment: Errol Musk invested in the emerald mine for about £40,000 in 1985 – and profited about 2.5-fold the initial investment within a 5-year span. (This would’ve equated to about $111,000 USD in profits as of 1989).
- Errol Musk did NOT support the apartheid: Errol Musk became city councillor of Pretoria in 1972 (age 25) with an anti-apartheid, progressive party – running against and defeating the Apartheid National Party. (This would certainly run contra to the idea that he was an apartheid supporter.)
- Elon & Kimbal did NOT support the apartheid: One of the primary reasons Elon Musk and Kimbal Musk exited South Africa was to avoid mandatory, legislated military service associated with sustaining the preexisting apartheid.
- Emerald mine was in Zambia: The emerald mine in which Errol Musk owned shares was located in Zambia – not South Africa. Some had implied that the mine was in South Africa and acquired/operated in a morally corrupt manner due to the apartheid.
- Zambia was independent: Zambia became an independent nation in 1964 with democratically-elected officials. Errol Musk acquiring a Zambian emerald mine in the mid 1980s is well after Zambian independence.
- Zambia was anti-apartheid: At the time Errol Musk owned the Zambian emerald mine, Zambia was considered a regional leader in anti-apartheid and anti-colonialism policy.
- Not Errol’s primary income source: Errol Musk described the emerald mine venture as initially “fairly good.” According to Errol, the emerald mining/sales was more of a “side hustle” and not a significant percentage of his income. Most of Errol Musk’s wealth was acquired via being an engineering consultant and real-estate developer.
- Zero direct benefit to Elon: The profits from emerald mining weren’t a significant percentage of Errol Musk’s income. Additionally, these profits were not somehow funneled into an investment trust fund for Elon Musk to use as needed (e.g. to help start a business). Elon left South Africa with very little money and worked as a farmhand and at a lumber mill in Canada to support himself.
Note: The reason most of these things are considered “likely true” rather than 100% true is because there’s no formalized/official paperwork. Additionally, we’re mostly taking the Musk family’s word for it that what they’re saying is true.
What’s likely false or complete BS? (Elon, Errol, emeralds)
- Errol Musk is still mining emeralds (present day): Apparently some individuals believed that, as of 2018 when the Business Insider stories were published, the emerald mines were still: (A) owned by the Musk family and (B) fully operational (producing emeralds). Why? The original BI headline read: “Elon Musk’s family owns an emerald mine in Zambia” (implying they still own and are operating the mine in 2018). The headline was later updated (replacing “owns” with “once owned.”)
- Errol Musk received “blood emeralds”: These would be considered emeralds mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency – an invading army’s war efforts, or a warlord’s activity. There’s zero evidence of this – and doesn’t make logical sense based on the available information.
- Errol Musk exploited mine workers via apartheid policies: Some believe that Errol Musk (being a white South African) exploited or ruled over black South Africans wherein they were utilized for “cheap black labor” (earning very little relative to the value they provided in the mining operation). This idea falls flat when considering the fact that Errol himself was politically anti-apartheid and the mining was done in Zambia – a completely independent nation with strong anti-apartheid policies.
- Errol Musk is only wealthy because of the emerald mining: Errol Musk earned most of his fortune consulting as an engineer – as well as developing real estate. Emerald mining was considered a side venture such that he’d sell a few emeralds on his consultancy travels.
- Errol Musk funded Elon Musk’s college education & startups: There’s zero evidence to suggest that Errol Musk funded Elon Musk’s college education and startups (e.g. Zip2, Paypal, etc.). Elon couldn’t even afford a 2nd PC at his company Zip2 so programmed at night – and the website was only functional during the day.
- Elon Musk founded his first company with emerald profits: As was mentioned, Errol Musk didn’t earn a significant portion of his money from selling emeralds. Moreover, Elon Musk immigrated to Canada with just $2000 (USD) and worked as a farmhand – while sleeping on couches. (Not exactly living in luxury.)
- Elon Musk is only successful because of emerald mining: These rumors are downright hilarious to me – but some people really believe them to be true (problematic). Suggesting that Elon Musk is only successful because of his father Errol’s emerald mine profits is laughable. (Rich parents = automatically guaranteed to start 3 distinct billion-dollar valuation companies?)
- Elon Musk sold emeralds to Tiffany & Co. jewelry company: Some find it highly unlikely that Tiffany & Co. jewelry company in NYC would buy emeralds from a young Elon Musk and brother Kimbal Musk in the 1980s without verifying the origin of said emeralds. (I think it’s possible – but likely false.)
Elon Musk Privileges vs. Challenges (Hypothesized)
It is unknown as to whether the respective lists of privileges and challenges are accurate in regards to Elon Musk’s life. It is likely that both lists do not come close to the full extent of Elon Musk’s challenges (and possibly privileges).
Elon’s hypothetical privileges
- Financial stability (growing up)
- White in South Africa, Canada, U.S.A.
- English speaking
- High IQ
- Worth ethic
- Access to books
- Access to computers
- Ability to move to Canada
Elon’s hypothetical challenges
- Emotionally abusive father (Errol Musk)
- Growing up in South Africa (not exactly a utopian locale)
- Moving from South Africa to Canada alone (age 17)
- Working odd jobs (e.g. farmhand, lumber mill) and sleeping on couches
Does Elon care about the false emerald mining rumors? (If so, why?)
Probably. Otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered addressing it via public Tweets and via interviews with Jeremy Arnold.
- Talent acquisition/retention & employee morale: Elon operates large companies (Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, etc.) and is trying to attract/retain top-tier talent at both. Negative public perception of Elon Musk via false rumors could impact talent recruitment/retention and employee morale.
- Investment & partnership opportunities: Certain wealthy individuals and/or investors may be hesitant to do business with Elon Musk or his companies if they assume his father (Errol Musk) profited off of apartheid-associated emerald mining – and funneled those profits to give Elon special privileges/advantages by funding his college education and startup companies.
- Zero journalistic integrity/accountability: Journalists can publish anything – even altering exaggerating/embellishing details or leaving specific key details out of the story in order to get as many clicks/views as possible. The journalists are not held accountable for publishing false information. In fact, some journalists may receive funding from conglomerates that dislike Elon to publish “hit pieces” (attempting to ruin/smear his reputation).
- Making “excuses”: From what I’ve gathered, Elon Musk has the attitude that everyone should do what’s within their personal capacity to improve humanity/the world. Regardless of whether you have more or less privilege or talent than someone else – I think he hopes that you give your all (i.e. don’t waste your life). Elon doesn’t want people to read misinformation and think – “Geez. I could’ve been successful too if my dad would’ve owned a Zambian emerald mine in the 1980s.
Hypothetical scenario: Young Elon Musk rich AF entering U.S. from Errol’s blood emeralds
Would it really matter if Elon Musk had “F-U money” (e.g. $100M) from a 1980s Zambian blood emerald operation? Unknown.
- IQ is heritable – not something you can buy (GWAS).
- Motivation – somewhat heritable and can’t be bought.
- Creativity/innovation – do not increase because of money.
If anything, one could make the argument that Elon Musk would be significantly less motivated to start companies like Zip2; Paypal; Tesla; and SpaceX if rich from an emerald mine because he could: (A) invest his riches for a safe/steady return and (B) live a hedonistic/relaxed/lazy life without working.
Think about this: How many young adults with rich parents end up starting one successful company on their own? Probably not many – because they don’t need to, they’re already “financially set” and thus many are less motivated.
Even if some of the “silver spoon” recipients (trust fund babies) end up founding independently successful companies – how many achieve billion dollar valuations on 3 separate occasions?
How many of these individuals continue working so hard (after making it) that they’re sleeping on the production floor of their company and getting horrible sleep? Probably not many.
How many have aspirations to decrease reliance on oil/gas in favor of electricity or solar to help improve the planet? How many are visionaries that hope to colonize Mars?
Therefore, implying that any amount of inherited would’ve “made Elon Musk who he is today” is laughable – dude could’ve “chilled” for 20+ years just collecting dividends after the sale of Paypal and he would’ve been fine (albeit significantly less relevant).
Even if Elon Musk: (A) actually used “blood emerald” money to fund his startups – and (B) leveraged the profits to reach his current success with Tesla and SpaceX – would this make him an inherently “bad person”? Arguably no – because the emeralds were not his venture or his responsibility (he can’t control what his dad did in the past).
Furthermore, the net positive impact Elon Musk has had on humanity is likely incalculable in terms of promoting the shift from oil/gas to electric and solar (vehicles and homes) – as well as on innovative ideas: colonizing Mars; hyper-loop; self-driving vehicles; off-grid satellite internet; underground tunnel roads; etc.
If someone is engaged in a morally corrupt business practice – it’s not their son’s fault, even if the son benefitted in some way. (Keep in mind: This isn’t even what happened – this is a mere hypothetical scenario.)
Most people reading this article have probably: (1) traveled by plane/gas vehicle (pollution); (2) worn clothing/shoes made by an exploitative company; (3) used a cell phone/computer (assembled by cheap/exploited labor); (4) consumed animal products (global warming & exploitation); etc. – without batting an eye.
If you go back far enough in time – chances are good that your ancestors: (A) exploited; (B) were exploited by others – OR most likely (C) both exploited and were exploited. (Should you feel guilty for the lives of your ancestors? Although it’s a personal choice – I’m of the belief that this is foolish. You are not them and they are not you.)
The point is – life is unfair and always has been. Someone is always at the top of the totem pole, another is always at the bottom, and everyone else is somewhere in between (in terms of overall quality of life).
Moreover, my guess is that most people complaining about Elon’s “privilege” are more privileged than most of the world – as unprivileged people don’t have the luxury or time to sit around Tweeting all day or writing up hit pieces on Elon Musk.
- Speak/understand English: Advantage
- Access to computer or phone: Advantage
- Time to read about this stuff: Advantage
Many people complaining about Elon also live in the U.S. – arguably one of the most privileged nations in the world.
Many of these same individuals are whining about student loan debt because they: (A) chose to attend college; (B) chose an expensive college; (C) chose a bad ROI major; and/or (D) never prioritized paying off student loans.
Meanwhile, in the Central African Republic, people are still struggling to get clean drinking water while simultaneously attempting to avoid starvation and battle infectious diseases – they could give 2 F’s about Elon Musk or any Americans with student loans.
Privilege is always relative and is generally a waste of time to debate. If you live in the U.S. – you’re already more privileged than a majority of the world. (Someone always has it best, someone always has it worst – do your best with what you’ve got.)
Closing thoughts on the Elon Musk “Emerald Mine” story + rumors…
As mentioned, I heard about this “emerald mine” story and subsequent related rumors (e.g. blood emeralds) in May 2022 during conversation – and later felt the urge to investigate.
Thanks (in largest part) to Jeremy Arnold of “The Save Journalism Committee” – I was able to get a more accurate understanding of the emerald mining operation details and separate the likely true from the likely BS.
Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter and decided to take it private in 2022, the anti-Elon crowd (i.e. Elon haters) have come out of the woodwork and intentionally or unintentionally – orchestrated smear campaigns disseminating false information.
People spreading the “Musk” + “blood emeralds” + “apartheid” rumor may fit into one or more of the following boxes:
- Envious of Elon Musk’s wealth and/or influence
- Dislike Elon’s takeover of Twitter and reinstatement of free speech
- Dislike Elon’s philosophical or political stances
- Dislike Elon’s vision for the future of humanity
- Perceive Elon as a narcissist & megalomaniac
- Want Elon’s companies to fail or stocks to crash
- Want to feel better about themselves (e.g. by criticizing an evil billionaire)
- May have been paid to do so (by conglomerates that dislike Elon)
- Assume whatever they read is true without verification
As a result, content/Tweets will continue circulating in attempt to suggest that: (A) any privilege Elon had growing up = (B) the only reason Elon is successful today.
I personally don’t care whether Elon (or anyone) grows up privileged. I’m just hoping that people simply do their best with what they’ve got: (1) genetically; (2) environmentally; (3) financially; (4) socially; (5) health-wise – to have a good life for themselves and to (hopefully) contribute to the world in positive and/or meaningful ways.