Diamond industry

DIAMOND INDUSTRY (EN: diamond industry; DE: Diamantindustrie; FR: industrie de diamants; ES: industrie minera diamantifera; RU: алмазная промышленность) is the branch of the mining industry for the extraction and processing of the diamonds, and also for the production of the synthetic diamonds. The extraction of the diamonds is one of the oldest branches of the mining industry.

The diamonds have been found for the first time in the 7th-8th centuries BC in India. The asian region remained the main source of diamonds till the 18th century. The diamonds have been found at the start of the 18th century in Brazil, to which has moved the monopoly for the supply of the raw materials to the fast-growing diamond cutting centres in Amsterdam and Antwerp. The diamonds have been found in Russia for the first time in 1829 in the Koiva river basin (the Urals). The diamond industry has emerged as the independent branch of the industry in 1866 in association with the discovery of the deposits of the diamonds in the South Africa. The discovery of the large deposits of the diamonds at the end of the 19th century and in the 1st decade of the 20th century in the various parts of Africa makes this continent the main diamond-extracting region in the world. There has started since 1955, after the discovery of the diamond deposits in Yakutia, their industrial extraction in the USSR.

(Table 1) The worldwide extraction of the diamonds
Years Diamonds, million carats
total technical jewellery
1900 2,1 0,8 1,3
1910 6,3 2,9 3,4
1920 3,9 1,6 2,3
1930 7,5 5,3 2,2
1940 13,0 11,2 1,8
1950 15,3 12,4 2,9
1960 25,6 19,6 6,0
1970 39,2 27,6 11,6
1975 36,2 27,5 8,7
1979* 31,8 24 7,8
1980 33,3 24,8 8,5
1981* 31,1 23,1 8,0

The products of the diamond industry are divided into the two major categories: jewellery and technical diamonds. The criteria for the separation of the diamond raw materials into the technical and jewellery ones change both in the long-time and short-time terms. The share of the jewellery diamonds accounts for about 25% of the worldwide extraction (this indicator is understated, because the significant part of the crystals, which are recorded as technical in the regions of the extraction, are used for the faceting into the brilliants). The total reserves of the diamonds in the industrialized capitalistic and developing countries are estimated as more than 2.0 billion carats (approximately 25% of them are the jewellery ones), the 330 million carats of them are cost-effective (1980). There have the large industrial reserves of the diamond raw materials the Zaire, South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Ghana, and Namibia. There have been found in Australia, near the Lake Argyl, at the border of the Northern Territory state, the rich alluvial placer deposits of the diamonds at the distance of 30 kilometres from the large kimberlite pipe. The extraction of the diamonds in the industrialized capitalistic and developing countries has increased since the early 20th century by almost 16 times (Table 1), it has reached the maximal level in 1970, and has stabilized after 1975 at the level of 31-33 million carats. The decline of the extraction is associated with the exhaustion of the series of the rich placer deposits in the countries of Africa.

The demand grows since the 1950s for the relatively cheap brilliants, for the production of which there are used in the increasing quantities the diamonds, which were previously used only for the manufacturing of the diamond tools. The production of the synthetic diamonds increases, and the extraction of the diamonds for the technical purposes decreases accordingly, primarily in Zaire. The growth of the demand for the jewellery raw materials has caused the emergence of the shortage of the diamond raw materials at the market, for the overcoming of which the leading extracting companies direct since the 2nd half of the 70s large investments into the search-exploration works, construction of the new mines, and reconstruction of the old mines (mostly at the south of Africa by the companies of the "De Beers" group). There has become the result of this the development of the new large primary deposits of the diamonds, namely, Finsch in the South Africa, Letlhakane and Orapa in Botswana (all discovered in the end of the 60s), of the placer deposits at the west of the South Africa and in the Venezuela, the discovery of the primary and placer deposits in Australia. More than 95% of the worldwide extraction of the diamonds accounts for the countries of Africa (Table 2), the extraction is performed in the non-significant quantity in Guyana, India, Indonesia.

(Table 2) The extraction of the diamonds by the country
Country 1950 1960 1970 1975 1979* 1980 1981*
Angola 539 1057 2396 991 840 1350 1600
Botswana - - 538 2397 4400 1501 4960
Brazil 250 350 190 270* 500 280* 280
Venezuela 60 71 509 1060 800 825 750
Ghana 1188 3273 2550 2328 1500 1200 1000
Zaire 10147 13453 19400* 17400 15500 12700 11800
Namibia 505 935 1865 1740 1650 1560 1250
Sierra Leone 656 2055 2050 1500* 850 850 466
Tanzania 165 548 708 448 340 240 240
CAR 111 70 494 339 300 279 279
South Africa 1732 3140 8112 7295 8600 8522 9526
Other* 245 650 520 370 700 290 300
Total 15348 25602 39183 36138 35980 33197 32451

The production of the diamonds increased with the growing tempos in the southern Africa region (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho). Its share in the worldwide extraction has increased in the 1950th-80th from 15% to 40-45%. The proportion of the above named countries in the production of the jewellery diamonds is 66% (40% in 1950). The extraction of the diamonds in the industrialized capitalistic and developing countries is mainly concentrated in the large companies. The diamond extracting companies of the south of Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Lesotho) are under the control of the joint English and South African consortium, which is headed by the "De Beers Consolidated Mines" company, there have been extracted in 1980 at its mines 14.7 million carats of the diamonds (approximately 45% of the worldwide production). There are smaller companies, which are under the state control: "Société minière de Bakwanga" ("MIBA") develops the deposits of the diamonds in Zaire, the extraction is 5.6 million carats (15-20% of the worldwide production); "Ghana Consolidated Diamonds", approximately 90% of the extraction in Ghana; "Diminco", approximately 50% of the extraction in Sierra Leone; "Diamond", all the extraction in Angola; "Williamson Diamonds", all the extraction in Tanzania.

The significant part of the extraction of the diamonds is performed by the large enterprises, where is annually extracted and processed the large quantity of the diamond-containing primary rocks (the "Premier" mine in the South Africa, 6.5-7.0 million tonnes of the rocks, 1.8-2.0 million carats; the "Orapa" mine in Botswana, 6.0-6.5 and 4-4.1 respectively, and others), and of the placer deposits (Namibia, 13-15 million cubic metres, and 1.6-2.0 million carats). The investments of the capital into the new projects amount to the tens and hundreds of millions of the British pounds sterling ("Jwaneng" in Botswana, 130 million pounds sterling per the 5-6 million carats of the annual extraction). There play the significant role in the extraction of the diamonds, besides the large diamond extracting companies, the prospectors, who are extracting 5.3 million carats in Zaire, up to 400 thousand carats in Sierra Leone, are performing the development of the easily accessible diamondiferous places in CAR, Ghana, Venezuela, and other countries.

The sale of the natural diamonds at the capitalistic market is the sphere of the activity of the single monopoly, namely, the Diamond Syndicate (has been founded in 1892). There are sold through its Central Selling Organization (CSO) up to 60-65% of the diamonds, which are extracted. The CSO is under the financial and operational control of the "De Beers", which is controlling the supply and prices of the diamonds at the worldwide market. There are sold through the CSO the diamonds, which have been extracted in Zaire, Tanzania, Guyana. The "Diamond Corp., West African" company (the subsidiary of the "De Beers" company) buys the largest part of the products in Sierra Leone. There are the offices of the CSO at the "free" markets in Liberia, Congo, and Burundi, where are sold mainly the stones, which are illegally exported from the neighbouring diamond-extracting countries. There falls into the control of the CSO (through the resellers) the part of the diamonds from Zaire, Ghana, Venezuela, and the CAR, which are the largest outsiders. The sale of the diamonds to the firms-consumers is performed by the CSO offices for the amount of 1.5 billion dollars (1981) in London, Lucerne, Johannesburg. Approximately 100% of the jewellery raw materials, which are arriving into the capitalistic market, are processed into the brilliants.

The synthetic diamonds are produced in the USSR and several other socialistic countries; the synthetic diamonds are produced abroad by the American "General Electric" company, by the enterprises of the "De Beers" consortium in the South Africa, Ireland, and Sweden, and also by the Japanese, West German, and certain other companies. The contemporary annual production of the technical diamonds (synthetic ones) is estimated at 150 million carats. The requirement for the diamonds for the production of the diamond tools is covered for the 75% on the account of the synthetic raw materials (1979). See also the Diamond article.