Diamonds are the token of fine jewelry and talking about them as often as we do gave us the idea to write an article about their origin. Where do they come from? How do their beauty and sparkle end up adorning so many breathtaking pieces? In this article, you will get an introduction to world’s largest diamond mines that supply our industry with approximately 135 million carats every year.
▪ Jubilee (Russia)
Originally named the “Yubileyny” open pit mine, Jubilee is the leading producer of diamonds in the world. It is located in Sakha (Yakutia) in the Russian Far East. This mine has been continuously operating since 1986 and in 2016, it was listed first in the category of most productive diamond mines on an international level. The mine’s capacity for production is estimated at around 153 million carats of recoverable diamonds, a fact that makes Jubilee a premium member of world’s largest diamond mines. It is a relatively young mine established and fully operated up to date by ALROSA - a Russian group of diamond mining companies with a leading role in diamond mining by volume. According to the statistics, the Jubilee mine produces an average of 10 million carats annually. The mining operations in this open pit area are performed at a depth of 984 feet, while the mine’s maximal depth is estimated at 2362 feet.
▪ Udachny (Russia)
This is another mine located in the Yakutia region and one more on the list of mines operated by ALROSA. The estimated diamond content in the Udachny mine is 152 million carats. Therefore, it is the second largest diamond mine in the world, right after Jubilee. Udachny’s treasury was discovered in 1955, while the mine activities started in 1971. Ever since, Udachny has been recognized as one of the industry’s vital suppliers of fine-quality diamonds. Mining at Udachny is particularly performed underground, since the open pit mining resources are getting depleted. Currently, Udachny diamonds are mined at a depth of 2067 feet and the odds are high that this mining deposit will become Russia’s largest underground diamond mine by 2019.
▪ Mirny (Russia)
Also known as the “Mir” diamond mine, Mirny is treasured as the world’s biggest source of industrial grade diamonds. It is the second-largest man-made hole on the planet, situated in eastern Siberia. The process of Mirny’s excavation started in 1955, while open pit mining started three years later. Today, the Mirny diamond mine is 1722-feet deep, 3.93-feet wide and it features a diameter of 3937 feet. The mine operates underground exclusively, since open pit mining officially ceased in 2001, due to complete exhaustion. The estimated life of the Mirny underground mine is 50 years, with the expectation to produce approximately one million ton of diamond material annually. During Mirny’s peak years of operation, it produced more than two million carats of ore per year.
▪ Argyle (Australia)
The Kimberley region of Western Australia hides a remote and highly important diamond deposit that is also a part of the world’s largest diamond mines – Argyle. It was discovered in 1979, but it started operating only in 1983. The Argyle mine is currently owned by Rio Tinto, an Anglo-Australian leading minimal group that focuses on finding, mining and processing the planet’s mineral resources. Based on expert studies and calculations, Argyle’s capacity for recoverable diamond production is estimated to be 140 million carats. At peak production, the mine is expected to produce approximately 20 million carats of diamonds per year. In 2013, the Argyle mine switched from open pit mining to underground mining, in order to access greater amounts of diamonds at depth.
▪ Catoca (Africa)
Ranking fifth on the list of largest diamond mines in the world, Catoca is a renowned producer of fine-quality specimens that are highly prized in jewelry. The deposit is located in the Lunda Sul province of North-eastern Angola near Surimo, the capital. Catoca is established and operated by Sociedade Mineira de Catoca, known as the first mining Angolan company that started large-scale diamond mining. Back in 2012, the Catoca mine reached the peak of its production by supplying the industry with 6.7 million carats of rough diamond material whose worth was estimated at $579 million. The Catoca basin, recognized as the word’s fourth biggest rock formation rich in diamonds, covers a surface area of 158 acres. The lifespan of this mine has been expanded up to 30 years upon latest gemological evaluation.
▪ Venetia (Africa)
Venetia is the biggest producer of diamonds in South Africa, while being sixth on a global level. The mine is situated in the Limpopo province, 49 miles from Musina. It is a 262-feet deep open pit that is estimated to hold 32.8 million carats of diamond material, whereas the underground diamond content is expected to reach 70 million carats. Speaking of which, underground mining operations are forecasted to begin in 2021. The Venetia mine consists of 12 kimberlite pipes that were discovered in 1980. The mine construction started in 1990 and it became fully active in 1992. With an estimated life span of more than 20 years of surface mining, the total amount of diamonds coming from the Venetia mine should not be less than 96 million carats.
▪ Grib (Russia)
Named after Vladimir Grib, a Russian post-graduate member of the team that discovered the mine, Grib is the first non-alluvial deposit that produced one million carats of diamond material per annum. This is also the newest mine discovery that is soon expected to become Russia’s largest diamond mine in size. Another big expectancy is that Grib will supply the industry with 98 million carats of diamond material, which is said to be used up after 16 years of open pit mining.
▪ Jwaneng (Africa)
The Jwaneng mine is located in Botswana, 160 miles southwest of Gaborone and it is seventh in diamond mining and production. As one of the largest diamond mines in the world, Jwaneng is rich with 88 million carats of diamond reserves – a fact that makes it popular as the “wealthiest” diamond mine on the planet in terms of value. This only proves that the specimens coming from this Botswanian deposit are of finest quality and are straightly directed to the high jewelry industry. The Jwaneng mine was discovered as an open pit deposit in 1972 with three kimberlite pipes and according to the statistics, its optimal diamond production was in 1982. It is greatly expected that this mine will continue operating for seven to ten more years at least.
▪ Orapa (Africa)
The list of world’s largest diamond mines puts Orapa at the ninth position, best known for the 20 million carats of mined diamonds and 40 million tons of waste every year. The Orapa mine is another significant Botswanian mine that contributes a lot to the country’s overall economy. The mining deposit is situated in Orapa town of the Boteti Sub-District and it extends over 29158 acres of surface area. Production officially started in 1971, sourced by two separate pipes that are believed to be around 93 million years old. In 2006, the Orapa mine set a personal record by producing a total of 17.3 million carats of rough diamond material.
▪ Botuobinskaya (Russia)
Botuobinskaya is located in the Nakyn kimberlite field in Yakutia. It is another precious possession of ALROSA operated by Nyurba mining and it is expected to “collect” an estimated diamond content of 70 million carats. This makes Russia not just home to half of the world’s largest diamond mines, but also the leading diamond producing force. Mining operations in this deposit started in 2012 and according to its already proven capacity, expectations from Botuobinskaya are quite promising. Therefore, the mine is most likely to be producing an average of 1.5 million carats of diamonds per year in the next 40 years from now.