Commodities & Metals

The Richest Diamond Mines in the World

5. Diavik
> Carats: 6.5 million (2010)
> Location: Canada

The Diavik mine is located in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Rio Tinto owns 60% interest in Diavik and is the mine’s operator.The mine went into production in 2003 as an open-pit operation that will be transitioned to a fully underground mine by next year. The kimberlite deposits are small, but produce high-grade gem quality stones. The Diavik mine produced 6.5 million carats in 2010.

4. Catoca
> Carats: 7.5 million (2009)
> Location: Angola

The Catoca mine is located in Angola and is owned by a consortium that includes Russia’s Alrosa, Brazil’s Odebrecht, Israel’s Daumonty and Angola’s state-owned mining company. The mine went into production in 1997 and claims to be the world’s fourth-largest kimberlite pipe, the geological formation from which most of the world’s diamonds are mined. The mine is expected to produce 60 million carats over its lifetime, about 35% of which are gem quality. Production in 2009 totaled 7.5 million carats.

3. Orapa
> Carats: 9.53 million (2010)
> Location: Botswana

Orapa is another Debswana-owned mine. The mine was opened in 1971 and is an open-pit mine from which nearly 13 million metric tons of rock was processed in 2010, or about 1 metric ton for every 1.3 carats. The Orapa mine produced 9.53 million carats in 2010.

2. Argyle
> Carats: 9.8 million (2010)
> Location: Australia

The Argyle mine is located in northwest Australia and is owned and operated by Rio Tinto. The mine began production in 1985 and has produced more than 750 million carats through 2010. The mine is the world’s largest producer of pink diamonds, even though the Argyle Pinks, as they are known, account for just 0.01% of production. The Argyle mine produced 9.8 million carats in 2010.

1. Jwaneng
> Carats: 11.5 million (2009)
> Location: Botswana

Jwaneng is owned by Debswana, and the mine was opened in 1982. It now produces 60% to 70% of Debswana’s total earnings. De Beers claims Jwaneng is the richest mine in the world. In 2009, the mine treated 8.2 million metric tons of rock to produce 11.5 million carats. That’s less than 1.5 carats per metric ton of rock.

Missing from this list is any mine owned by Russia’s state-owned diamond-mining company Alrosa. Russia produced 34.86 million carats in 2010, of which 34.3 million carats are attributed to Alrosa. It is reasonable to assume that at least one of the company’s mines would appear on this list, but Alrosa does not report production from individual mines (at least as far as we could discover). The company owns and operates ten open-pit mines and nine alluvial deposits, including the Mirny pit, the second-largest man-made hole in the world.

Alrosa has announced plans for a $3 billion IPO in mid-2012. The offering would make about 20% to 25% of the company available to investors. Because there is really no other way for investors to make a big play in the diamond market, Alrosa’s IPO could be hugely successful.

Finally, a word about the U.S. There is one active diamond mine in the U.S., at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. Visitors can dig for diamonds at the park and, best of all, if you find one it is yours. The largest diamond ever found in the U.S. — the Uncle Sam Diamond at 40.23 carats — was discovered there in 1924, well before it became a state park in 1972.

Paul Ausick

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