Diamond Supply Update: The Producers
Mining is on the upswing as new sources around the world
and continued strength in Africa keep supplies plentiful
Diamond supplies are in good shape, say experts who spoke
at the Gemological Institute of America's International Gemological
Symposium this year. Here's a look at where the world's diamonds
come from and a peek at their production potential.
Despite the growth of diamond sources worldwide, Africa's leading
role will continue, said panelist John J. Gurney, a professor
at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. "There is
more knowledge than ever about potential diamond sites, more
sophistication in terms of geochemical techniques in exploration,
better understanding of diamond size distributions and better
ways to assess hidden ore bodies." Gurney suggested the
combination of De Beers' production from the Venetia Mine (Northern
Transvaal Province in South Africa), Orapa Mine and Jwaneng Mine
(both in Botswana) could yield some 30 million carats of diamonds
per year. "That will be the core of African production in
the next millennium."
The land down under is often described as an anomaly among diamond
"It has upset everything anyone knew about diamond geology.
The diamonds are in the wrong place, in the wrong host rock.
The mine has low qualities, but also very rare pinks," said
A.J.A. "Bram" Janse, a consultant and geologist in
Perth, Australia. Of the several kimberlite and olivine lamproites
(rare igneous rocks known to bear diamonds) in Australia, only
Argyle is economically viable, Janse said. While Australia is
"not in the league of production compared to Africa,"
he says that with underground mining (now that alluvial, open-pit
sources have been depleted), Argyle has a potential life of 12
Upstart Canada has huge diamond reserves in its Northwest Territories.
"The arctic region is an enigma to most people it
comprises a third of our territory and only a fraction of our
people," said Douglas Paget, chief of special projects,
Canada Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development,
Hull, Quebec. "The climate is harsh and there is a dearth
of infrastructure. Yet the Ekati mine, which opened last year,
is expected to produce 3 million to 4 million carats a year for
the next 21 years."
This may just be the start of diamond production in Canada.
In the Lac de Gras area south of Ekati, the Diavik Mine will
open in two years with the potential of producing two times more
than Ekati. With other developing projects, Canada eventually
could produce up to 10% of the world's supply of diamonds, Paget
Dr. Nicolai Sobolev, director of mineralogy and petrography at
the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk, shed light on
one of the world's least understood diamond sources. He said
20%-25% of the world diamond market is composed of production
from Siberian mines. "Of the 800 kimberlite pipes known
in Russia, some 150 contain diamonds," he said. Most are
undeveloped. Instead, Sobolev concentrated on the production
of Russia's largest and most developed mine, Mir, located in
the republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Production at Mir is schedule
to move from open pit to underground (and more expensive) operations
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.