Rare and valuable minerals

Which part of Africa is rich in diamond deposits?

If we talk about the first human professions, then gold mining is rightfully considered one of the most ancient. People began to mine this precious metal even before our era, and for many millennia it has been the main measurement of the wealth and wealth of a person and a state. If you add together all the gold mined by man, you will get a cube the height of a 5-story building (the length of one edge is about 20 meters). The mass of rock from which it was extracted is much larger: gold ore and sand extracted and purified by man would form a mountain 2,5 km high. In the 21st century, gold mining is represented in many countries of the world. The African continent has become one of the largest mining sites. Africa’s gold deposits contain huge reserves of high-quality metal, which allows continental countries to supply both the domestic market and trade the valuable resource on the world market.

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Gold mining in Africa: history and modernity

Gold mining on the African continent began in the 5th century: the main producers of the precious metal were Mali and Ghana, known in Europe as the “Gold Coast”. Until the 18th century, gold bars and coins were the main export product of African states: they supplied it to the Mediterranean countries, which used gold as the main monetary unit. For almost 2 thousand years, gold was the main resource of Africa, providing its countries not only with development and prosperity, but also with connections with the other world. The metal mined in the equatorial states was the basis of the world coinage system; the financial market of the medieval world depended on fluctuations in its production. The years of the “gold rush” became a new era in the development of gold mining on the African continent. It came from the south, from South Africa, and contributed to a massive influx of European and American adventurers to the mainland: thousands of people dreamed of finding their “Eldorado” here. Until 1990, Africa was the leader in gold extraction. With the beginning of the new millennium, China and the United States strengthened the top positions in the ranking, and South Africa, which had occupied the first line for many years, took third place on the “podium.” Today, the main gold-mining countries in Africa are: Despite the fact that South Africa lost its leading position in terms of precious metal production, it was able to retain the honorary title of owner of the world’s largest gold deposit – Witwatersrand.

How South Africa became a “golden power”

For several centuries, the indigenous peoples of the southern part of the African continent, the Weld, told a legend about Eldorado existing on their lands. Adventurers and gold miners who came here from Europe believed the legend and went to seek their fortune on the arid plains of Bamberton and Pilgrim’s Rest. Many of them died from disease, dehydration, wild animals or in clashes with local warlike tribes. Australian explorer John Harrison achieved success in his search for Eldorado. In 1886, in the area of ​​​​present-day Johannesburg, he discovered the first placer gold deposit. Harrison himself did not have time to extract the valuable metal: some time after the discovery of the placers, he disappeared without a trace, not returning from the search expedition. The gold miner’s place was quickly taken by other adventurers, and a few years later an industrial city grew up in the area of ​​Ferreira’s small camp in the Transvaal. The settlement was named Johannesburg. In less than ten years, the young gold mining town has become the largest population center on the African continent. The lands of the Witwatersrand were actively populated by fortune seekers from all over the world, which led to a rapid pace of urbanization in this region of the Transvaal. The gold rush that began in the Witwatersrand was one of the main causes of the Second Boer War at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. Local residents, the Boers, were unhappy with the significant influx of foreign gold miners, “Uitlanders”. The government decided to increase taxes on foreign workers and also took away their right to vote in elections. The British, who owned most of the gold mines in the Transvaal, were outraged by the actions of the Boer government and began a rebellion aimed at overthrowing the government of the young Orange Republic.

The Witwatersrand is the world’s largest gold deposit

On the modern map of gold mining, the main contribution of continental Africa is the gold of the Witwatersrand deposit. These deposits, which are the largest in the world, cover approximately 87 sq. km of territory and contain more than 500 mines, each of which can be considered a separate deposit. The volumes of gold extracted from the mine range from 40 to 30% of the annual global production of the precious metal. The gold-bearing province is characterized by excellent geological indicators: the content of precious metal in the ore body ranges from 8 to 20 grams/ton, and in some mines reaches 3000 grams/ton. The metal mined here has a high standard: 900-935. Today, gold ore is extracted at a depth of more than 3,5 km from the surface of the earth. Over the entire period of development, about 50 thousand tons of pure gold were extracted from the deposit. In addition to this precious metal, the Witwatersrand province contains over 70 minerals and minerals. The greatest industrial value is uranium, pyrite, iridium and marcasite (radiant pyrite). Until the 18th century India and Borneo were the only suppliers of diamonds. These countries are also the place of origin of some of the largest and most famous diamonds, including the Kohinoor, Great Mogul, Orlov or blue Hope. However, at present these deposits play a minor role.


Australia is one of the largest diamond producing countries in the world. Currently, the main production is concentrated in the west of the continent in the Kimberley region (not to be confused with the Kimberley in South Africa!), where primary development of the Argyle deposit is underway in a pipe called AKI. According to available information, this mine currently ranks first in the world in terms of production volume. In 1998, the mine reached its peak, producing more than 43 million carats of diamonds in one year. It is expected that the deposit will be fully exploited in 2018. The concentration of diamonds in Australian lamproites is many times higher than the average for kimberlite pipes around the world. The AKI pipe contains 7 carats per ton of rock. For the most part, inexpensive gem-quality diamonds are mined here. However, although rare, unique pink diamonds are also discovered here, the interest in which is so great around the world that they are sold individually at special auctions.


The country, which borders the Republic of South Africa, has rich deposits of diamonds of exceptional quality. Most of Botswana’s territory is sandy desert. The discovery of several diamonds in river sediments stimulated geological exploration, during which first the Orapa kimberlite pipe was discovered (in 1967), which still ranks third in the world in terms of diamond reserves, and later, in 1973, the Ywaneng pipes and in 1977 – Letlhakane, the field is already fully developed. When developing the Yvaneng field, among other things, it was necessary to build a 50 km long water pipeline to it. A power station was also built to supply the diamond mine and the city built for the development of the deposit with electricity. The city has everything necessary for the most comfortable living for people working in the middle of the barren desert. The mine, which produces about half the world’s gem diamonds, has the highest productivity of any diamond mine in the world. All of Botswana’s mines are operated by Debswana Diamond Company Ltd. It is a joint venture between De Beers and the Government of Botswana, with each partner holding equal shares.


Russian deposits are also rich, most of which were explored between 1954 and 1959. Since that time, the volume of diamond production from Russian mines has amounted to about 150 million carats, a fifth of which can be used for jewelry and investment. Diamond-bearing veins are located in the Yakut region and Siberia. Only a small amount of the several hundred local kimberlite pipes contain diamonds. The most famous are the Mir and Udachny deposits, which rank fourth in the world in terms of productivity. The Yubileiny mine ranks eighth. The stones here are somewhat larger in diameter than at other deposits, and their quality is, as a rule, very high. About 37% of mined diamonds are used in the jewelry industry. Diamonds are mined here under very difficult conditions: frosts in some places reach several tens of degrees, and the soil freezes to a depth of 300 meters, which significantly increases the cost of mining. The right to it belongs to the Alrosa company, the main share of ownership of which belongs to the state.

South African problem

Some of the most famous diamond mines are in South Africa, where a diamond rush broke out at the end of the 1866th century. The history of diamonds in South Africa began in 21, when farmer Schalk van Niekerk noticed a sparkling pebble in the hands of a neighbor boy. The stone was named “Eureka”, in our time it is exhibited in a museum in Kimberley and weighs 1869 carats. In 83,5, another discovery followed – a magnificent diamond weighing 1870 carats, called the “Star of South Africa”. It was he who caused the diamond fever. Over the course of several years, important outcrops of diamond-bearing kimberlites were discovered – Jagersfontein – in August 1870, then, in September 1871 – Dutoispan, Bultfontein – in early 1871, De Beers – in the spring of 1871, Kimberley – in July 1890, Wesselton – in September 1896, Premier – in 1965 and one of the more recent Finsch – in 1. Currently, the largest volume of production among the South African mines is the Finsch kimberlite, which operates on the basis of the last explored deposit and ranks tenth in the world in terms of mining productivity. Some fields were finally closed (Jagersfontein, Kimberley), others continue to be developed to this day (Dutoispan, etc.). The productivity of kimberlites in South Africa ranges from about 3000 carat of diamonds per ton of mined rock. Lots of high quality stones. Thus, it was in the South African mines that the largest diamond known to date, the Cullinan, was mined, weighing more than XNUMX carats in its rough form.


The most recently explored deposits in the world are the Diavik mine (sixth place in productivity, preparations for deep mining are underway) and Ekati mine (seventh place in productivity). Both mines are located in northern Canada. In 1985, in the northern province of Lac de Grace, where frosts persist most of the year, geologists Chuck Fipke and Stevan Blusson discovered heavy minerals indicating the presence of diamond-bearing kimberlites. A thorough geological exploration that followed this discovery revealed the presence of a kimberlite pipe containing high-quality diamonds suitable for use in jewelry. A mine was built, and development of the deposit began in 1999. BHP Diamonds Inc., the largest shareholder, markets only high quality stones cut directly in Canada. Each diamond mined from the Ekati mine must weigh at least 0,3 carats and come with three certificates: a certificate of authenticity and quality issued by the American Gem Society Laboratories (AGS), a certificate from the Government of the Northwest Territory confirming that the diamond has Canadian origin, and, finally, a company certificate guaranteeing that the stone was mined at the Ekati mine. It is assumed that the deposit’s reserves will be sufficient for 25 years of production, i.e. until 2023. Interestingly, it is possible to get to the mine by land only in winter, when the soil freezes.


The Catoca mine in Angola ranks ninth in the world in terms of mining productivity. It was founded only in 1997, and its production volumes are constantly growing. In 2007, an average annual production of 6,1 million carats was achieved.


The uninhabited coast of Namibia has long been called the “Skeleton Coast” by sailors. And for a long time no one could have imagined that it was in the sands of this coast that high concentrations of high-quality diamonds were hidden. It is very difficult to mine here. First of all, it is necessary to raise several meters of thick sediments that do not contain any diamonds. The waste soil is then used to build high, twenty-meter-high coastal embankments. Developments are carried out in compliance with the strictest security measures: no machines and equipment (excavators, trucks, processing machines) delivered to the diamond-bearing territory can leave it under any circumstances, since a full inspection of vehicles leaving the territory, or the possible loss of stones, would be more expensive the price of any car left outside the territory. The boundaries of the area where mining is carried out are also strictly patrolled, both from the ocean and the continent. The fact that the stones located in the coastal sediments had to endure an incredibly long journey to the top determined the high grade of diamonds mined here. Only the highest quality stones can withstand such a journey. The rest, passing this long, several hundred kilometers, path, accompanied by constant friction with other components of the sedimentary rock, are destroyed. As a result, 95% of the stones mined here are gem-quality diamonds.

Other diamond deposits

In Africa, diamonds are discovered and developed in a number of other countries – Lesotho, Zaire, Tanzania. Central African Republic, further north in equatorial Africa is Ghana. Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Global diamond production exceeds 100 million carats per year. 80% of this amount are industrial diamonds, and about 20% are jewelry stones. De Beers operates 20 mines in southern Africa, producing approximately 30 million carats, approximately 40% of global production.

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