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DIAMOND MINING

 

MORE THAN 80 PERCENT OF WORLD DIAMOND RESERVES HELD BY ONLY THREE COUNTRIES, SAYS NEW STUDY

 

Just as the jewelry industry appears to be consolidating, so does the rough diamond business, at least geographically, states Learn Bonds, a London-based financial publication serving the investment market. But, while the study has been quite widely quoted in the trade, it does appear to include certain blind spots and quite a few possible inaccuracies.

According to data gathered and analyzed by Learn Bonds, three countries alone control at least 80.6 percent of all the world’s diamond reserves globally namely Russia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Botswana. In total, the known global diamond reserves stand at about 1.1 billion carats, the study said.

Russia has the largest reserves at 650 million diamond carats, the publication states, representing about 52 percent of the global capacity. The DRC stand in second place with 150 million carats or 13 percent of global supply, while Botswana is third with reserves totaling 90 million carats in diamonds.

It is worth noting that the study focuses specifically on volume of production, rather than value. According available data, Botswana’s average price per carat in 2018 was worth about 60 percent more than Russia’s, while Russia’s average price carat was about 11 times that of the DRC. 

Furthermore, it looked at reserves still located underground without taking into consideration the ability of the different countries to exploit them. Both Russia and Botswana are home the large industrialized mining conglomerates, while in the DRC a large percentage of goods are extracted by the informal mining sector. 

RAISING EYEBROWS OVER AUSTRALIA AND ANGOLA

Other countries earning notable mention in the Learn Bonds study were South Africa and Australia, for which it reported reserves of 54 million carats and 39 million diamond carats respectively. This is despite the fact that Australia’s only major diamond mine, Argyle, is set to close down within the next few months. 

Reserves in other countries total to 120 million carats, stated the Learn Bonds study, including notable rough diamond producers like Namibia and Canada. 

Interestingly, Angola was not mentioned among the top nations holding rough diamond reserves, despite the fact that country is often being referred to as the world’s most underexploited diamond producer. 

This is likely to raise some eyebrows, because in 2018 Angola estimated that it held diamond reserves estimated at 180 million carats, mainly in the provinces of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul in the central and northeastern parts of the country.

Table courtesy of Learn Bonds. (*Click to enlarge)

CANADA MISSED ON 2019 PRODUCTION REPORT

The Learn Bonds study also reported on rough diamond in 2019, stating  that Russia occupied the top spot with an estimated 19 million carats in production. The study said that Australia came in second place with 13 million carats followed by the DRC at 12 million carats.

Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa allegedly produced 6 million, 3 million and 2 million respectively, Learn Bonds stated, while a number of other countries produced one million diamond carats each.

It’s worth noting that Alrosa, the state-controlled Russian diamond mining conglomerate, which is a public company is obliged to report its results, earlier noted a production total for 2019 of 38.5 million, more than twice the amount reported by the Learn Bonds report. 

Learn Bonds (*click to enlarge)

Notably absent in Learn Bonds report for 2019 was Canada, which in 2018 was the world’s third largest producer of diamonds by value, with a 14.4 percent share, and the third largest producer by volume, with a 15.7 percent share. In carat terms is was led only by Russia and Botswana.

The Kimberley Process is considered to be the most reliable repository of diamond production statistics, but as of yet it has not released conclusive data for 2019. When that happens, the veracity of the Learn Bonds study can be properly evaluated.