Geological classification

Where did diamond mining first begin?

Diamonds have a special place among precious stones. It is characterized by exceptional hardness, high light refraction, strong dispersion and high luster. Having spent billions of years at a depth of 100-200 kilometers at a temperature of 1100-1300 degrees, diamonds are brought to the surface during volcanic explosions along with kimberlite magma. In such places, kimberlite pipes are formed, which are primary diamond deposits. Approximately 90% of primary diamond deposits are concentrated in kimberlite pipes. The first such pipe was found in the Kimberley province in southern Africa. Hence it became known as a kimberlite pipe, and the rock containing precious diamonds was called kimberley. Diamond deposits are divided into two types: primary sources (lamproite pipes and kimberlite pipes) and secondary sources – placers. Placer diamonds were first found in India 1000-500 BC; their development took place over many centuries. In 1725, South America became the center of world diamond mining due to the discovery of alluvial diamond deposits in Brazil. The discovery of numerous placers in Brazil led to the fact that world prices on the diamond market in those years began to fall rapidly. Brazil’s leading position in diamond mining remained for just over 100 years. The history of diamond mining on the African continent begins in 1867, when the first diamond was discovered on the banks of the Orange River in South Africa. He dramatically changed the path of development of the South African state and many other African countries. In 1880, two Britons, Rhodes and Rudd, bought up miners’ properties near the De Beers farm, founding the De Beers Mining Company Ltd. – the embryo of the future diamond empire of De Beers. And by 1888, the main diamond mines, which produced almost 90% of world production, were bought up by entrepreneurs using money raised from the Rothschild financial house and merged into the De Beers company. In 1902, in South Africa near Pretoria, a mason named Cullinan discovered a new deposit of primary diamonds – the Premier pipe. Subsequently, the world’s largest diamond, the Cullinan diamond, weighing 3106 carats, was discovered at this deposit, named after the discoverer and owner of the Premier mine. Later, discoveries of diamond deposits continued not only in the south, but in other areas of Africa. Thus, in 1912, the richest coastal-oceanic placers were discovered in eastern Africa in the German colonies (currently Namibia), providing up to 20% of world production, which have not yet been mined. By the mid-twentieth century, spheres of influence in the diamond industry were practically divided. Southern African countries remained the main production center and Brazil remained a secondary one. India’s diamond mines are almost exhausted. At that moment, our country was not considered a serious diamond-mining power, although in the middle of the 1949th century a few diamond placers were discovered in the Urals. However, on the vast territory of our country there were many preconditions for searching for diamond deposits, and Soviet geologists did not lose hope of finding deposits in Siberian Yakutia. The first diamond was found in 1954 in the river basin. Vilyuy, and in August 2010, Leningrad geologist Larisa Popugaeva discovered the first deposit of primary diamonds in the USSR – the Zarnitsa pipe. A year later, a detachment of the Amakinsk expedition Yu.I. Khabardina discovered the Mir kimberlite pipe, and a group of geologists led by V.N. Shchukin – “Udachnaya” pipe. In these completely wild and previously uninhabited regions, in the permafrost zone, the modern cities of Mirny and Udachny grew. Many diamond deposits were discovered nearby – the Aikhal, Komsomolskaya, Yubileynaya, Internatsionalnaya and others pipes, from which the ALROSA company currently produces diamonds. The leading position in the world in diamond mining in XNUMX passed to Russia. For the first time in its long history, it managed to oust Botswana. The search for diamonds is also ongoing on other continents. Thus, in the 70s of the last century, a large primary diamond deposit was discovered in Australia – the Argyle pipe. Later, in the 1990s, primary deposits were found in northern Canada, which have now been put into production. Diamond mining is a rather complex and labor-intensive process. It requires large financial outlays in the initial stages. So, on average, one ton of rock during processing allows us to extract about 1 carat of diamonds from primary deposits, and from alluvial deposits from 3 to 5 carats. The average depth of the quarry is about 600 meters. Deposits in kimberlite pipes are located at a depth of about 1,5 kilometers. A mine is being built for underground diamond mining. To establish underground diamond mining, it is necessary to initially invest from 3 to 4 billion dollars in development. Despite the high costs, this is the only method of diamond mining that brings economic benefits and allows access to reserves located at great depths. Thus, the construction of the Mir mine in Yakutia cost 22 billion rubles. Here, diamonds are mined using combine mining. The produced rock is sent to the factory. The pieces of rock that arrive at the factory are very large, the size can reach several meters. At the first stage, the rock pieces are crushed in cone or jaw crushers. From here, the ore is sent to wet ore autogenous grinding mills, where pieces of rock up to 1,5 m in size are crushed to a size of 0,5 m or less. At the next stage, using spiral classifiers, the raw material is separated depending on its density and size. Small particles are carried away by water into the drain, and large ones move to the lower part of the tank, from where they rise to the top using a spiral. At the beneficiation stage, called “screening,” a huge sieve equipped with holes of different diameters separates the raw material into different fractions. These groups are further enriched in different ways. At the final stage, diamonds are isolated from small pieces of ore. Medium-sized pieces of rock are sent to jigging machines, where diamond crystals are isolated from them under the influence of water pulsation and settle. The fine ore “powder” is subjected to pneumatic flotation, causing small diamond crystals to accumulate in bubbles of foam. In a manual process, experts select and sort the crystals, they clean them, and then “finish” them. It is not difficult for experienced specialists to determine at first glance which mine the diamond came from. No two diamonds are alike. Diamond is not a standardized product. The long history of diamonds, full of mysticism and mysteries, begins simultaneously with the history of diamonds, because a diamond is nothing more than a cut gem diamond. It is extremely difficult to determine the exact time of the appearance of diamonds in the life of society, and it is completely impossible to find out when this mineral began to be treated as a precious stone. It is known that they began to come to Europe in the 550th-XNUMXth centuries BC, but diamonds began to be used as a precious stone much later, only when methods for cutting them appeared – approximately XNUMX years ago.

India – the birthplace of diamonds

In ancient times, when diamonds were mined exclusively in India, mystical properties were attributed to them. They were most often used as attributes of religious rites. They were used to decorate talismans, amulets and statues of Indian gods. Diamond reserves were strictly guarded by the monks. Those few stones that ended up in Europe got there through travelers or rare traders who ventured on a long and difficult journey. Back then, diamonds looked completely different from what they do now; they could not be given their current shape: they were only slightly polished along natural edges.

Diamonds in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, diamonds were used as amulets and talismans. Later they began to be used for medical purposes. Some ardent believers in the healing properties of diamonds even swallowed them in the hope of healing. The Roman thinker Pliny the Elder, in his work Naturalis Historia, described the use of diamonds as tools, noting their unsurpassed strength. In the 13th century, humanity learned to give diamonds the required shape using cutting. However, this invention went unnoticed, since it was believed that after processing diamonds lose their miraculous properties. Therefore, until 1910 (and it was then that diamond polishing was invented, which is still used today), diamonds were practically not processed. In those distant times, only monarchs and members of their families were allowed to wear diamonds as jewelry, since they were symbols of strength, courage, and power. In fact, it was the stone of winners. Agree, why would a mere mortal wear such a stone around his neck?

First diamond

The first diamond was made by Louis de Bernel in 1454 for the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold. Seeing the incredibly sparkling stone, the Duke wanted to decorate his armor with it. He firmly believed that the shine of the stones would blind enemies on the battlefield, terrify them and put them to flight. And the Duke’s example, as history has shown, turned out to be contagious. Many rulers considered it their duty to enter the battlefield in armor studded with diamonds. It was not customary to appear wearing diamonds at social events until the favorite of King Charles VII of France, Agnes Sorel, introduced the fashion for wearing them in society. In the second half of the 19th century, a real diamond rush began in Europe: the first kimberlite diamond was found in South Africa – the famous “Star of South Africa”. This did not happen quite normally: in 1869, a certain farmer showed up at the tavern, holding in his hands a bottle of stones that he had picked out from the lining of his own house. Oddly enough, they were diamonds. Just a few years later, South Africa became the world’s main supplier of diamonds (Brazil was firmly in second place). Rumors began to spread around the world that diamonds were poisonous. This was done in order to stop the thefts that constantly occurred in the mines: the workers simply swallowed them and went home. It was during this period that the De Beers company entered the world stage, concentrating in its hands about 75% of the diamond production capacity worldwide. It was from the moment the company opened its doors that the modern history of diamonds began.

Diamonds in Russia

Mentions of diamonds appear in Slavic chronicles in 1073. But they began to use it as jewelry much later. The description of Tsar Michael’s attire (17th century) mentions diamond cufflinks. At the beginning of the 18th century, the fashion for diamond buttons came to Russia. Catherine II loved to play cards for diamonds. By the way, it was during her reign that the word “diamond” in everyday life almost completely replaced the name “diamond”. It is worth noting that in those days diamonds were entirely imported. Russian diamonds were discovered in the Middle Urals only in 1829. A few decades later, deposits were found in Siberia – on the Melnichnaya River, near Yeniseisk, then diamonds were discovered in Yakutia, and then in the Arkhangelsk region. In August 1954, the famous Zarnitsa kimberlite pipe, the largest diamond deposit, was discovered. For more than 50 years it has been in reserve and has not been developed. Only after the discovery of the deposit in Yakutia, just when it became clear that diamonds were a promising industry for Russia, diamond cutting plants began to be built in the country. There are currently 7 such factories in operation, the main one and the very first one – the Kristall plant – is located in Smolensk. And the famous white Russian diamonds are valued all over the world. Author: Tamakhina Olga
Publication Date: 30.07.2008
Updated: 16.07.2013
Reproduction without the consent of the editors is prohibited.

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