It may surprise you to learn that Russia operates half the world’s largest diamond mines. Typically, we think of mining for precious gems as happening in Africa or Australia – but the biggest player in diamonds is Russia. Here’s a list of the top 10 productive diamond mines, by reserve amount.
At nearly 71 million carats of diamond reserves, Botuobinskaya is in good stead, with the productive Nyurbinskaya mine a mere three kilometres away. Botuobinskaya is one of four entries on this list operated in whole by Russia’s state-run diamond company Alrosa.
With nearly 86 million carats of diamond reserves, Orapa boasts one of the largest kimberlite pipes in the world. Despite being lower on this list in terms of reserve, Orapa produces some of the best annual numbers on this list.
This open pit mine contains just over 88 million carats of diamond reserves. It is owned by De Beers and the government of Botswana in a joint partnership. Like many on this list, it’s yet to reach its full depth, with open pit operations exceeding 350 meters, but eventually nearing an estimated depth of 625 meters.
With 98 million carats of diamond reserves, Grib has just started operations in earnest. Production is expected to be slow at first, and will rely on open pit operations until 2030.
Venetia, South Africa
With 102 million carats of estimated diamond reserves, Venetia is the largest diamond mine in South Africa. It’s been producing since 1992 and is owned by De Beers. Currently, Venetia is still open pit mining, but will switch to underground mining in the near future.
The fifth largest diamond mine in the world contains an estimated 130 million carats of recoverable diamonds. Catoca has been operating since 1993. Operation of the mine is split between Angola’s state-owned company Endiama, Russia’s state-owned company Alrosa, China’s state oil company Sonangol, and a Brazilian company called Odebrecht.
Catoca is sticking with open pit operations that have reached more than 200 meters deep, though the eventual depth is expected to surpass 600 meters.
Located in Western Australia, Argyle is actually the world’s biggest diamond mine if you only consider JORC reserves. The recoverable reserve ranks below three Russian sites at 140 million carats, however. Argyle is finishing the process of shifting from open pit to underground mining operations. Its open pit mine is storied, however, producing well over 791 million carats of diamonds in its lifetime.
Thus begins Russia’s reign over the top of this list. All three of these top entries are located in a region of Russia known as Yakutia. Mir is estimated to contain 141 million carats of diamond reserves. Alrosa is Russia’s state-owned mining operation, and it operates Mir.
Opened in 1957, Mir closed down its open pit operation in 2001, but started its underground mining operation in 2009.
Judging by reserve size, Udachny is the second largest diamond min in the world. 152 million carats are estimated as recoverable.
Russia’s state-owned Alrosa operates Udachny as well. Like Mir, it was discovered in 1955. Despite being one of the deepest open pit mines in the world, operations have shifted from the open pit approach to a more focused underground operation in recent years.
Jubilee (Yubileyny), Russia
This diamond mine is the largest in the world. It contains an estimated 153 million carats of diamonds judged to be recoverable, and even further reserves as yet potentially undiscovered.
Like the other Russian entries here, Jubilee is ultimately run by Alrosa, Russia’s state-owned diamond company. Relatively new, the mine’s only been producing since 1986. The open pit mine isn’t even operating at half its depth yet. Currently, the mine operates at 320 meters. The eventual expected operating depth should reach 720 meters.
Udachny is rated as bigger than Jubilee in terms of JORC reserve estimates, but not by reserve size. These are simply two different ways of estimating the full potential of the mine.