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In which region are 90 Russian diamonds mined?

The first diamonds in Russia were discovered in the Urals in 1829. Now, almost 200 years later, Russia is one of the flagships of the global diamond industry. Today we will tell you where and how diamonds are mined in our country.
The Russian diamond industry today is developed at a high level: the largest Russian diamond mining companies, including ALROSA, successfully compete with the world’s leading producers.
In addition, Russia is a major global exporter of diamonds. The successful development of the Russian diamond industry makes a significant contribution to the country’s economy and creates jobs for many people.

How are diamonds formed?

Many people have heard of “kimberlite pipes” and “diamond pipes”. What it is? These are the so-called “explosive tubes”, in which diamonds are pushed from the earth’s crust to the surface under the action of the earth’s crust. There, at depths of up to 200 km, carbon compounds are compressed at pressures of about 40 atmospheres and temperatures of up to 000 °C into a dense, durable mineral known as diamond. In other words, it is in the aforementioned pipes that the gemstone is mined.
Diamond deposits include kimberlite and lamproite deposits. Both are the main types of ore deposits. Lamproite differs from the first in that it contains more elements such as titanium, potassium and phosphorus. However, the principle of their formation is the same – these are the vents of extinct volcanoes. Of course, it contains many other minerals besides diamonds.
There are also secondary deposits that remain after the destruction of the primary ones. It was in this type of deposit that diamonds were first discovered in India around the 5th millennium BC.
Diamonds are most often found in the most ancient areas of the earth’s crust, including igneous rocks.

Diamond mining

  • Open pit mining is carried out by removing the top layer of soil. The quarry walls are then oriented and blasted to deepen the quarry. The ore crushed in the quarry is then sent to the mining and processing plant for further processing.
  • In the closed mining method, diamonds are mined in a mine. This method is used when surface mining is not possible, such as when valuable minerals are located deep underground.
  • Mixed method – mining is first carried out in open pits. However, if the minerals are deep underground, additional mines are built.

The Russian company ALROSA has developed 27 deposits, both open-pit and underground. The company’s activities are concentrated mainly in Yakutia, the Arkhangelsk region and Angola. 95% of all diamonds in Russia are mined by ALROSA companies.
Russian diamond reserves are estimated at approximately 700 million carats, which is about half of the world’s reserves.

What is happening now in the Russian diamond market?

Despite the great potential for finding new deposits, the exploration phase of assessing potential resources in new areas has been declining since the 1990s. Such exploration is expensive and takes five to six years before the first profit is made. At the same time, government funding is concentrated on a small part of production, and large companies develop only large and medium-sized mineral deposits. As a result, smaller deposits remain undeveloped.
According to recent data, 40% of exploration costs are borne by small companies that explore untapped mineral deposits with the help of debt capital. Such companies are known as “juniors”. As a rule, juniors are technology startups with high profitability. These companies are growing rapidly and have low valuations of their funds, so their stock price rises several notches from launch to the start of diamond mining. Today it is fair to say that juniors are the future of the diamond industry.
The first success in this area was the Almar company, which has existed for more than 7 years and is currently completing geological exploration work in the north of Yakutia. During this time, more than 30 juniors, including subsidiaries of large and medium-sized companies, expressed interest in entering the stock exchange. These juniors not only conduct exploration, but also have the potential to grow into major mining companies in the future. If new deposits are discovered, juniors can sell their licenses to industry giants or start production on their own.
According to industry experts, it is juniors who will ensure resource security for Russia in the future. However, the government must play an important role in the development of juniors by introducing subsidies and additional incentives for them, simplifying licensing and creating special exchanges to attract venture capital.

ALROSA’s tax and dividend payments account for approximately half of the budget revenues of the Sakha Republic. Artificial diamonds cannot yet compete with natural ones: for example, in 2014 alone, the production volume of artificial jewelry diamonds in the world was able to reach 1 million carats, and ALROSA alone in the same year 2014 produced 36–38 million carats per year.

As is often the case with city-forming enterprises, ALROSA actually holds the city of Mirny on its balance sheet: the main social and cultural facilities of the city and the Mirny district were built by builders and at the expense of AK ALROSA.

All houses in Mirny are on stilts. A normal building on a foundation would melt the permafrost, causing houses to sag and fall apart. Bright facades for buildings were invented about fifteen years ago – local residents say that this brightens up the long white winter.

In winter, temperatures here can drop to minus 55–60 degrees Celsius. When the temperature reaches a critical level – minus 45 degrees, kindergartens and primary grades of schools are closed. This usually means that some children are happily running around the streets, legally skipping classes: the climate here is sharply continental, winters are dry, and frosts are more easily tolerated.

Car owners especially feel the severity of the Far Eastern frosts. A considerable part of your salary has to be paid for gasoline, because if you turn off the car at night, it will be impossible to start it the next morning. In another case, it is necessary to have a warm garage or install a special system with a sensor in the car, which, when the outside temperature drops to a certain temperature, will automatically turn on the car to warm up, and then turn it off after some time. Despite the fact that all car engines are packed with special blankets to keep them cool during the trip, and the heater is running at maximum, car windows still freeze.

However, the harsh climate does not mean a lack of infrastructure: the city is lively, fast, and the people are wealthy. In Mirny there is a strong three-star hotel “Azimut” with rooms priced at 8-10 thousand rubles, two museums, a botanical garden, and good shops. Land Rovers and Land Cruisers drive along the streets.

540 kilometers north of Mirny – right on the Arctic Circle – is the city of Udachny, surrounded by taiga for hundreds of kilometers. You can get there along a technical road, which instead of asphalt is covered with crushed stone and compacted with snow. Local residents try to travel along it in pairs, in case one of the cars breaks down.

Only 12 thousand people live in Udachny. Like Mirny, it was created for the industrial development of kimberlite pipes. The Udachny quarry was closed to open-pit mining due to its great depth in 2015. It was the largest quarry of the ALROSA company both in size and in terms of the quantity of diamonds mined. There is an underground mine under the quarry – work there is still ongoing.

In general, the Lucky Pipe is the most important place for expeditions of scientists from all over the world. The fact is that here is the largest diamond deposit in Russia in terms of raw materials and size. In December 2014, a stone containing 30 thousand diamonds was discovered in the Udachnaya mine, which is a million times more than their usual concentration.

It is also fortunate to be the birthplace of the largest stones, including those that are now in the Russian Diamond Fund (for example, the Alexander Pushkin diamond weighing 320,65 carats, which was mined in 2013). In addition, the Udachnaya pipe has a complex and curious structure: it bifurcates into two more pipes – Eastern and Western, which differ from each other in the composition and quality of the ore.

Despite its tiny size, Udachny is very proud of its status as a city. It even has its own temple – St. Seraphim of Sarov. Locals believe that it is an almost complete copy of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg.

Construction of the temple took two years. At the opening in October 2012, the director of the Udachny mining and processing plant gave the temple an hourglass with 2012 carats of diamonds instead of sand.

But to be precise, it would be more correct to call the city a large diamond hub – roads to large diamond deposits diverge from here: Aikhal and Verkhne-Munskoye.

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