Today, diamonds are mined in over 25 countries on every continent except Antarctica. As with many natural resources, diamond deposits are largely concentrated in developing countries and/or inaccessible locations, a point made ever more acute as existing deposits are increasingly exhausted. These geographic and geopolitical conditions represent substantial challenges for mining companies, including requisite capital expenditures that can rise to one billion dollars or more to discover, develop, construct, and ultimately, open a mine.
- Botswana remains the world’s leading rough diamond supplier by value, but was supplanted as the second leading producer by volume by the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008.
- The Russian Federation remains the leading producer nation by volume.
- Though a relatively insubstantial amount of diamond is mined there, Lesotho has the highest value per rough carat, with an average of $879.97.
The largest single production diamond mine has historically been the Argyle Mine located in Australia and owned by the Rio Tinto Group.
- The Argyle Mine produces approximately 90% percent of the world’s pink diamonds, but ninety-five percent (95%) of production is non-gem quality.
- In addition to pink diamonds, the Argyle Mine is noted for brown, or champagne, diamonds which account for approximately $150 million of revenue per annum.
- Over the life of the mine, where operations began in 1983, some 750 million carats of diamonds have been produced with total revenues of $7.0 billion (an average of $10.86 per carat, notwithstanding Argyle’s top quality pink diamonds often fetch $100,000- $1,000,000 per carat).
- Rio Tinto recently announced plans in 2010 to spend $803 million to extend the life of the Argyle Mine to 2019, exploiting the eventual/imminent closure of Argyle in its pink diamond marketing efforts.
Over the past decade, Canada has emerged as a leading producer of diamonds and further exploration is expected to continue once global economic circumstances permit, particularly in the Northwest Territories just south of the Arctic Circle. Canada accounted for 9% of volume and 18% of value in 2008.