How Diamonds are Mined
How Diamonds are Mined World Wide and in Russia with Alrosa
Approximately 130,000,000 carats (26,000 kg) of diamonds are mined annually, with a total value of nearly US$9 billion, and about 100,000 kg (220,000 lb) are synthesized annually.
Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from Central and Southern Africa, although significant sources of the mineral have been discovered in Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, and Australia. They are mined from kimberlite and lamproite volcanic pipes, which can bring diamond crystals, originating from deep within the Earth where high pressures and temperatures enable them to form, to the surface. The mining and distribution of natural diamonds are subjects of frequent controversy such as concerns over the sale of blood diamonds or conflict diamonds by African paramilitary groups.The diamond supply chain is controlled by a limited number of powerful businesses, and is also highly concentrated in a small number of locations around the world.
Only a very small fraction of the diamond ore consists of actual diamonds. The ore is crushed, during which care is required not to destroy larger diamonds, and then sorted by density. Today, diamonds are located in the diamond-rich density fraction with the help of X-ray fluorescence, after which the final sorting steps are done by hand. Before the use of X-rays became commonplace, the separation was done with grease belts; diamonds have a stronger tendency to stick to grease than the other minerals in the ore.
Historically, diamonds were found only in alluvial deposits in Guntur and Krishna district of the Krishna River delta in Southern India. India led the world in diamond production from the time of their discovery in approximately the 9th century BC to the mid-18th century AD, but the commercial potential of these sources had been exhausted by the late 18th century and at that time India was eclipsed by Brazil where the first non-Indian diamonds were found in 1725. Currently, one of the most prominent Indian mines is located at Panna.
Diamond extraction from primary deposits (kimberlites and lamproites) started in the 1870s after the discovery of the Diamond Fields in South Africa. Production has increased over time and now an accumulated total of 4,500,000,000 carats (900,000 kg) have been mined since that date. Twenty percent of that amount has been mined in the last five years, and during the last 10 years, nine new mines have started production; four more are waiting to be opened soon. Most of these mines are located in Canada, Zimbabwe, Angola, and one in Russia.
In the U.S., diamonds have been found in Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. In 2004, the discovery of a microscopic diamond in the U.S. led to the January 2008 bulk-sampling of kimberlite pipes in a remote part of Montana.
Today, most commercially viable diamond deposits are in Russia (mostly in Sakha Republic, for example Mir pipe and Udachnaya pipe), Botswana, Australia (Northern and Western Australia) and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2005, Russia produced almost one-fifth of the global diamond output, reports the British Geological Survey. Australia boasts the richest diamantiferous pipe, with production from the Argyle diamond mine reaching peak levels of 42 metric tons per year in the 1990s. There are also commercial deposits being actively mined in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Brazil. Diamond prospectors continue to search the globe for diamond-bearing kimberlite and lamproite pipes.