The diamond industry was one of the winners as the world economy rebounded from the effects of the pandemic. Consumer demand for diamond jewelry grew last year, while supply remained constrained.
This year, the $80 billion industry saw more turmoil as cutters, polishers and traders hunted for ways to keep buying from Russia — Russian miner Alrosa (MCX: ALRS) accounts for about a third of global rough-diamond supply. The sudden shortage of stones sent diamond prices surging, but Alrosa PJSC has revived exports to levels near where they were before the war with Ukraine.
Using data compiled by Mining Intelligence, the world’s biggest diamond mines are ranked by carat production for the first nine months of 2022, as in the chart below, and estimated value in U.S. dollars during the period in the second chart. The estimated value is based on average historic annualized price per carat.
Jwaneng, which means “a place of small stones” tops our list for production with 10.3 million carats (10,319 kct). Located in the Naledi River Valley of southern Botswana, the Jwaneng pipe was first discovered in 1972 and became fully operational a decade later. The Jwaneng mine falls under the Anglo American (LON: AAL) portfolio operated by Debswana, a partnership between the De Beers company and the government of Botswana. Debswana has earmarked US$6 billion to build the world’s largest underground diamond mine at Jwaneng, already the richest diamond mine in the world.
One of four Debswana operations in Botswana, Orapa, meaning “resting place for lions”, is the world’s largest diamond mine measured by area and number two on our list with 8,033 kct. The mine was discovered in 1967 by a team of De Beers Geologists led by Manfred Marx. It became fully operational in 1971. Currently, Orapa is mining at a depth of 305 metres and is expected to reach 350 metres by 2026.
The biggest diamond mine owned by Alrosa, Udachny ranked number three with 4,649 kct. Udachny is located in the Sakha Republic region of Russia, just outside the Arctic circle. Discovered in 1955, the first stage of the mining and processing complex was commissioned in 1976. At a depth of more than 630 metres, Udachny is currently the third deepest open-pit mine in the world after Bingham Canyon Mine and Chuquicamata.
Anglo American’s Venetia mine in South Africa is number four, producing 4,567 kct. Venetia mine was designed as an open pit, and in 2013, an underground extension project began with plans to ramp up to full production by 2025 while extending the mine life to 2046.
Alrosa’s Nyurba mine in Yakutia, Russia is number five on our list, producing 3,616 kct. In 2019, Alrosa found a Matryoshka-style stone in Nyurba, the first in diamond mining history.
Jwaneng is also the richest diamond mine in the world in terms of value, estimated at US$1.25 billion, with an average historic annualized price at US$121.5 per carat.
Orapa holds second place for value as well, estimated at US$976 million, and neck and neck with Jwaneng with an average historic annualized price at US$121.5 per carat.
Venetia swapped fourth place in production for third place in value, estimated at US$425 million and an average historic annualized price at US$93 per carat.
Udachny, number three for production, ranked number four for value, estimated at US$404 million and with an average historic annualized price at US$87 per carat.
Canada’s Diavik mine, owned by Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO; LSE: RIO; NASDAQ: RIO), makes an appearance as number five in terms of value, estimated at US$394 million and with an average historic annualized price at US$118.2 per carat
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