It’s hard to believe that that beautiful, brilliant stone in your ring was once sitting in the earth, isn’t it? But it was and there’s quite a few diamonds still there in fact about 120 million carats of diamonds are mined each year. There are currently two methods of mining diamonds: Alluvial Mining and Pipe Mining.
The Alluvial mining method is done on beaches and in riverbeds. When using this method, the water and sand on the bank are held back with man made walls, or a bulldozer is used to move the beach until the level of earth containing diamonds is reached. The diamonds are not sorted right there, instead the sand that has the diamonds in it is loaded into trucks and taken to screening plants.
With pipe mining, the diamonds are extracted from the earth through volcanic pipes. These pipes are natural – not man made. Shanks are put in the ground next to these pipes, and then tunnels are driven into the deepest parts of the pipe. Using this method, gigantic rocks that are full of diamonds are taken out of the mine and then moved to screening plants for sorting.
There are many diamond mines in operation around the world. Some of the major ones include:
The worlds largest diamond mine is Orapa which is located 240 Km west of Francistown. This mine is owned by a partnership between the government of Botswana and DeBeers named “Debswana”. The mine operates 7 days a week and is the oldest one owned by Debswana. It offers schools for its employee’s children as well as a hospital and game park. Orapa began production in 1971.
The Argye mine is located in the Kimberley region in Western Australia. Owned by Rio Tinto, this mine has the distinction of being the world’s largest single producer of volume of diamonds. Unfortunately there is a low proportion of gem quality diamonds so it is not the value leader. It does, however, produce 90-95% of the world’s supply of pink diamonds.
Diavik is another mine owned by Rio Tinto and located in Canada. It is on an island north of Yellowknife and south of the Artic Circle. The island, connected by an ice road is an important part of the regions economy and employs more than 700 people. This mine produces more than 8 million carats annually.
Ekati diamond mine is located south of the artic circle in the Northwest Territories of Canada and owned by BHP Billiton. The Ekati is Canada’s first operational diamond mine and the diamonds are sold under the Aurias trade name.
The Baken diamond mine is located in South Africa along the lower Orange River. It is owned and operated by Trans Hex. The average size stone for 2004 was 1.29 carats. In 2004, this mine produced a 78.9 carat D color flawless diamond that sold for more than 1.8 million dollars (US), as well as a 27.67 pink diamond that was sold for over 1 million US dollars.
The largest diamond ever was produced by the Premier mine in Cullinan, South Africa in 1905. Named The Cullinan Diamond it weighed a whopping 3,106.75 carats. This same mine also produced the Golden Jubilee diamond which weighed in at 545.67 carats. In 2003, this mine, owned by De Beers was renamed The Cullinan Diamond Mine.