Diamonds are best known for being used in jewellery, but in fact about 80% of the mined diamonds are used for research and industrial applications, often used to cut, grind or drill through another material. In addition to being a beautiful gemstone with a certain luster, they are very durable and are the hardest material on Earth. But how are these diamonds mined, and what are the most important diamond mines in the world?
It’s commonly believed that the African continent is home to most of the diamonds, but actually diamonds can be found in about 35 countries. South Africa, Russia and Botswana produce most of the gem diamonds while industrial diamonds are mostly found in Australia, India, Siberia, Russia, China, Brazil, Canada and the USA.
The diamonds in these different mines can be mined using three different techniques: Pipe Mining, which can be open-pit mining or underground mining, Alluvial Mining and Marine Mining.
What are the most important diamond mines in the world? These are not necessarily based on the amount of diamonds they produce; the quality of the diamonds and the size of the mines are also important aspects.
AIKHAL – Russia
Located in the north-eastern part of the country, the Aikhal mine is the largest diamond mine in Russia. The mine is owned and operated by Alrosa, a very large mining company responsible for about 1/3rd of the global rough diamond production. The mining in the Aikhal mine started in 1961 as an open pit mine and about 36 years later, an underground mining section was also opened. The Aikhal mine is home to different Kimberlite pipe deposits: the Jubilee open-pit, the Komsomolskaya open-pit, the Aikhal pipe and the Zaria pipe.
The annual production is estimated at about 1.3 million carats and the mine employs more than 4300 people.
JWANENG – Botswana
In second place is the Jwaneng mine, an open pit mine located in southern Botwana in the Kalahri desert. This mine became fully operational in August 1982 when it was officially opened by the President of Botswana. Jwaneng mine is owned by De Beers in collaboration with the government of Botwana.
The Jwaneng mine is the richest diamond mine in the world by value with approximately 12,5 to 15 million carats per year. Diamonds mined in this region are mostly from a very high quality, which results in a remarkably higher dollar value per carat.
UDACHNY – Russia
The Udachny mine is located near the town of Udachny in the Sakha Republic region of Russia. The mining started in 1971, 10 years later than in the Aikhal mine, although it was discovered in June 1955. It’s also owned and operated by Alrosa.
Udachny started as an open pit mine, with a depth of 630m and Alrosa has developed an underground mine in 2015 as resources in the open pit are getting exhausted. The annual production is estimated on 5 million carats.
NYURBA – Russia
The fourth most important diamond mine is this list is the Nyurba mine, again in Russia. Also owned by the large mining company Alrosa, this mine is the youngest amongst all the divisions they own. Combining both open-pit mining and alluvial mining, the mine was established in 2000 and employs about 1500 people. The annual production is estimated on 0.7 and 2 million carats.
ORAPA – Botswana
In fifth place we have an open pit mine situated in Botwana. The Orapa mine, located 240km west of Francistown, was discovered in 1967 by De Beers. The open pit mine has been fully operational since 1971 and is owned by De Beers in partnership with the government of Botswana. With a current depth of 250 meters, the annual carats recovered is approximately 11 million. By 2026, the Orapa mine is expected to reach a depth of 450 meters.
We have given you a short overview of the five most important diamond mines in the world. With about 50 active mines worldwide and an estimated 30 more that are inactive, there are less mines than most people believe. The demand for exquisite diamonds keeps on rising, for jewellery and scientific purposes, so more and more people start to opt for synthetic, or lab-grown diamonds. Discover how you can see the difference between a natural and a lab-grown diamond in our blogpost