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The world's top 10 biggest diamond mines

14 October 2013




The ten largest diamond mines in the world by measurable reserves contain more than one billion carats of recoverable diamonds. Russia is home to half of the world's biggest diamond mines, while Botswana houses two; including the world's largest diamond producing mine Orapa. Mining-technology.com profiles the top 10 biggest mines based on contained diamond reserves and excluding alluvial diamond mining projects.


The world's top 10 biggest diamond mines

Jubilee

Jubilee, also known as the Yubileyny diamond mine, located in Sakha (Yakutia), Republic of Russia, is the biggest diamond mine in the world. The mine was estimated to contain more than 153 million carats (Mct) of recoverable diamonds, including 51Mct of probable underground reserves as of January 2013.

The open-pit diamond mine is owned and operated by the Aikhal mining and processing division of Russia's state-owned diamond company Alrosa.

The mine has been in production since 1986. It extracts diamond ore from the Yubileynaya kimberlite pipe, which was estimated to contain Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC)-compliant probable reserves of 107.163 million tonnes (Mt) grading 0.90 carat per tonne (ct/t) as of July 2013.

Jubilee diamond mine produced 10.4Mt of ore in 2012. The open pit mine is presently operating at a depth of 320m, but is expected to eventually reach 720m.


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Udachny

Udachny diamond mine, also located in the Yakutia region of Russia, ranks as the world's second largest diamond mine by reserve size. Estimated diamond reserves at the mine exceeded 152Mct as of January 2013.

The mine is owned by Alrosa and operated by its Udachny mining and processing division. The mine extracts ore from the Udachnaya Kimberlite pipe, whose JORC-compliant diamond reserves as of July 2013 were estimated at more than 120Mct, including 7.3Mct of proven reserve from the ore stockpile. Udachny is bigger than Jubilee in terms of JORC reserve estimates.

The Udachnaya pipe discovered in 1955 is the largest diamond deposit in Russia. Udachny, which is one of the deepest open pit mines in the world, produced 10Mct of diamonds a year until 2011. The open pit operation is, however, expected to close in 2014, while the underground operation is expected to continue for more than 30 years.

Mir

Mir or Mirny, another diamond mine in the Yakutia region of Russia, is the third biggest diamond mine in the world. The underground diamond mine was estimated to contain more than 141Mct of probable diamond reserves as of January 2013.

The diamond mine is owned and operated by the Mirny mining and processing division of Alrosa. It extracts diamond ore from the Mir kimberlite pipe, whose JORC reserve stood at 29.586Mt grading 3.29ct/t diamond as of July 2013.

The Mir pipe was discovered in 1955. Open-pit mining started in 1957 and closed in 2001. Underground mining at Mir has been underway since 2009. The mine produced 497,000 tonnes of ore in 2012. The production is expected to reach 1Mt by 2014.


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Argyle

Argyle diamond mine located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia ranks as the world's biggest diamond mine if JORC reserves alone are taken into account. The recoverable diamond reserve at Argyle as of December 2012 was estimated to be 140Mct (67Mt grading 2.1ct/t diamond).

The diamond mine, owned by Rio Tinto, has been in production since 1983. Argyle is currently transitioning from open pit to underground operations to access diamonds at depth. Argyle Underground will be the first block cave mine in Western Australia.

At peak production Argyle Underground is expected to produce 20Mct of diamonds a year, which will make it the largest diamond producing mine in the world.

The open pit mine has produced more than 791Mct of diamonds in its life, which the company believes will extend beyond 2020.

Catoca

Catoca diamond mine in Angola ranks as the fifth biggest diamond mine in the world. The Catoca open-pit located near Saurimo, around 840km east of Luanda, is estimated to contain up to 130Mct of mineable diamonds.

The diamond mine is operated by Sociedade Mineira de Catoca, a joint venture of Angola's state-owned diamond company Endiama (32.8%), Alrosa (32.8), as well as China and state oil producer Sonangol (18%) and Odebrecht of Brazil (16.4%). The mine has been operational since 1993.

Catoca mine produced 6.5Mct of diamonds from around 10Mt of ore in 2012, which accounted for about 70% of Angola's total diamond output. The open-pit currently operating at a depth exceeding 200m is scheduled to reach at least 600m deep. The mine life of Catoca is extendable up to 30 years.


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Venetia

Venetia diamond mine located 80km from Musina in Limpopo Province of South Africa ranks as the world's sixth largest diamond mine. Venetia's diamond reserves as of December 2012 stood at more than 102Mct. The open pit reserves are estimated to be 32.8Mct (33.6Mt grading 0.975ct/t diamond) and the underground diamond reserves are estimated at 70Mct (91.4Mt grading 0.765ct/t diamond).

Venetia is the largest diamond producing mine in South Africa. It produced 3.066Mct of diamonds from 5.618Mt of ore in 2012. The deposit comprises of 12 kimberlite pipes.

The mine is owned and operated by De Beers and has been in production since 1992. The open-pit operation is expected to continue up to 2021, after which it will be switched over to underground mining. The mine life of Venetia Underground is expected to be more than 20 years.

Grib

Grib diamond mine, which is yet to commence commercial production, is Russia's fourth largest and world's seventh largest diamond mine. The estimated diamond reserve of the mine exceeds 98Mct.

The mine is being developed by Russian oil company Lukoil through its diamond-mining subsidiary Arkhangelskgeoldobycha (AGD). The mine will extract the Grib pipe situated at Verkhotina in the Arkhangelsk region of north-western Russia.

Diamond mining at Grib is expected to begin by early 2014. The annual diamond production at Grib is anticipated to be 4Mct. The mine is planned to go underground after 16 years of open-pit operation. The mine is expected to be put up for sale after the commencement of production.

Jwaneng

Jwaneng diamond mine in African country Botswana ranks as the eighth biggest diamond mine in the world. The open-pit mine located 160 miles south-west of Gaborone in south central Botswana was estimated to contain diamond reserves of 88.3Mct (70.1Mt grading 1.26ct/t diamond) as of December 2012.

Jwaneng is considered to be the world's richest diamond mine in terms of value, and is owned by Debswana, a partnership between the De Beers and the Government of Botswana. The mine has been in production since 1982. It accounts for up to 70% revenue of Debswana, which operates four diamond mines in Botswana.

The mine produced 8.172Mct of diamonds in 2012 and 10.641Mct in 2011. The current operating depth of the Jwaneng pit is 350m. The mine is, however, expected to reach a depth of 625m by 2017. A major extension project, namely Cut-8, has been underway at Jwaneng since 2010, which will extend the mine's life to at least 2025.

Orapa

Orapa diamond mine located 240km west of Francistown city in Central Botswana is the ninth largest diamond mine in the world by reserve. The open-pit mine was estimated to contain 85.7Mct of diamond reserves (146.1Mt grading 0.587ct/t diamond) as of December 2012.

Orapa has been in production since 1971. It is the oldest of the four diamond mines operated by Debswana. The kimberlite pipe mined by Orapa is one of the largest in the world. It covers an area of 118kmĀ² at the surface.

Orapa produced 11.089Mct of diamonds in 2012, compared to 11.158Mct in 2011. Orapa is the world's biggest diamond mine based on 2012 production. The mine achieved a record production of 17.3Mct in 2006.

Botuobinskaya

Botuobinskaya diamond mine, due to commence production in 2015, is located in the Nakyn kimberlite field, around 200km north-west of Nyurba in the Yakutia region of Russia.

The mine will extract from the Botuobinskaya pipe which contains 70.9Mct of JORC-compliant diamond reserves (13.839Mt grading 5.13ct/t diamond).

The mine is owned and operated by Nyurba mining and processing division of Alrosa. Alrosa's Nyurba division has been mining the Nyurbinskaya pipe three kilometres away from the Botuobinskaya pipe since 2000.

The JORC reserve of Nyurbinskaya (Nyurba) open-pit mine was estimated at 40.394Mct as of July 2013. Nyurba mine produced 7.955Mct of diamond in 2012.

Striping operations at the Botuobinskaya pipe began in December 2012. The Botuobinskaya mine is expected to produce 1.5Mct of diamonds annually for more than 40 years from the start of operations.

NRI Energy Technology

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The ten largest diamond mines hold more than one billion carats of diamond reserves.
Jubilee open-pit diamond mine in Russia has been in production since 1986.
Alrosa's Udachny mine in Russia is transitioning from open-pit to underground operations.
The Mir open-pit diamond mine was closed in 2001.
Rio Tinto's Argyle mine, Australia, is transitioning from open-pit to underground operations.
Catoca in Angola is the world's fifth largest diamond mine by reserve.
Venetia is the largest diamond mine in South Africa.
Jwaneng diamond mine in Botswana has been in production since 1982.
Orapa mine in Botswana produced more than 11Mct of diamonds in 2012.
Botuobinskaya mine in Russia is being developed away from the existing Nyurba open-pit.