Russia

The Republic of Sakha has 81% of Russia's diamond reserves, 99% of Russia's diamond production, and approximately 20% of world output. Although the first officially registered diamond in Russia was found in the Urals in 1829, by a 14-year-old serf Pavel Popov when panning alluvial gold deposits in the Perm region, systematic exploration beginning in 1936 showed that there were no large deposits of diamonds in the Urals. A number of diamond-bearing fields were discovered in the basin of the lower and upper Koiva River and in the middle of Vizhai River. However, the largest Ural diamond weighed only 3 carats, and no kimberlite sources (the most common diamond host rock) were found. The first kimberlites were discovered in Yakutia in 1956, and later in the Arkhangel'sk region (northern Europe).

There were small finds on the Yenisey mountain ridge in Siberia, and in Western Siberia. In the late 1940s, geologists focused on exploration in Yakutia as there were similarities with the Precambrian shield region of South Africa's diamond-producing region. The first diamond in the Siberian platform was found in the spring of 1948 on the terrace deposits of the river Malaya Erema. In 1950, the Tunguska River diamond exploration expedition in Siberia was renamed the Amakinskaya expedition and moved to a permanent base in the Yakut village of Nurba. Mining works were started in the basin of the upper and middle Vilui River and the first diamond was found on August 7, 1949 near the village of Krestyakh in Suntarsky district.

As a result of further exploration, the first kimber-lite pipe in the Soviet Union named "Zarnitza" was discovered on August 21, 1954. Soon after, the pipe "Mir" (Peace) was discovered. Diamond saturation in the Mir pipe is considerably higher than in the most high-grade diamond-bearing deposits (except the lam-proite pipe Argyle in Western Australia). The deposit has been exploited by the open pit method since 1958. The depth of the quarry has reached 525 m, with a diameter of 1200 m. In 1988-1999, the Mir quarry was in a stage of reconstruction. Deeper underground mining is planned to further develop the pipe.

The Yakut kimberlite province occupies the northeastern Siberian platform. It stretches from the south to the north for approximately 1500 km from Malobotuobinsky district nearly to the Laptev Sea, and from the west to the east for 1000 km from Kharamaisky field in Krasnoyarsky region to the Lena River. Within its boundaries, over 800 kimberlite pipes have been discovered during the past 40 years, 13 of which have commercial importance. As they are distributed extremely unevenly, they are grouped into 20 or 22 kimberlite fields, which are usually considered in eight more or less isolated districts. On the whole, the Yakut diamond-bearing province is divided into two kimberlite regions (subprovinces): Viluyskaya and Anabaro-Olenekskaya. Extraction of diamonds is carried out from the pipes "Peace," "Sitikanskaya," "Udachnaya," and 'Ubileinaya." Kimberlite pipelines "Botuobinskaya" and "Nurbinskaya," with a commercial percentage of diamonds, were found in the "Srednemarkhinsky" kimberlite field in 1994. Exploitation will be carried out over 30 years with an enterprise capacity of 1.2 million tons.

On January 4, 1957, the Yakutalmaz Association was formed with a permanent address in the village Mirniy. Yakutalmaz was engaged only in the extraction of diamonds, and sorting, sale, and shipping were determined by the committee of valuable metals and stones at the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. In 1992, the joint-stock company Almazy Rossi-Sakha (Diamonds of Russia and Sakha, ALROSA) was created to coordinate mining activities, prospecting, processing, cutting, and sales. The company controls 95% of the diamond industry in the Sakha Republic, and is owned in part by federal and state authorities. In 1996, the overall sum of the company's sales of diamonds made 1.6 thousand million US dollars. According to geologists' evaluations, the stocks of ALROSA will last 50 years with the current level of output.

Intensive exploration, for diamond deposits in the eastern European platform has been ongoing for several decades, following the discovery of the diamond deposits in Yakutia. In the late 1970s, the first diamond-bearing kimberlite pipeline was found in the Arkhangel'sk region, with diamond deposits of commercial importance. In 1980-1881, two further pipes named "Pomorskaya" and "Lomonosovskaya" were discovered, and six pipes are now known in total.

At present, the area of Zimneberezhny diamond-bearing district, situated 100-140 km to the northeast from Arkhangel'sk city, is divided into four fields: Zolotitzkoye, Verkhotinskoye, Melskoye, and Poltozerskoye; however, the Zolotitzkoye field is situated in the extreme west of the Zimneberezhny diamond-bearing district, where all the industrial diamond pipes are concentrated. At present, questions of the development of diamond deposits in the Arkhangelsky region are being discussed at different levels of state government. Also, when exploiting valuable minerals, many specialists are worried that ecological bans will be ignored. A complicating factor is the high percentage of clay material in diamond-bearing layers. Clay swells heavily when saturated with water, which could cause flooding of waste-pipes not only in the locality of the river "Zolotitza" but also in the coastal zone of the White Sea, where the spawning places of valuable fish are located. These and other problems are regularly raised in the media and discussed by the population. On the whole, the Arkhangelsky deposits are characterized by small amounts of diamonds (they make 15% of the rest of the explored stocks of deposits of Yakutia) and medium-grade stones. Nevertheless, diamonds from the Lomonosov deposit have commercial importance. A number of foreign firms have shown interest and have offered cooperation for exploiting the deposit.

In 1999, a geological prospecting subsidiary of ALROSA was founded in Arkhangel'sk. Its task is to prospect new kimberlite pipes.

There are extremely vast prospective areas in the territory of Russia for new native diamond deposits in the next 10-25 years. In the first half of the 21st century, Russia will remain among the leading countries to exploit diamonds from its unique native resources. Among old deposits, the pipeline "Udachnaya" will be exploited for two more decades, but a long life (more than 50 years) lies ahead for diamond mines of "Ubileinaya" and "Zarnitza," which have been working at full capacity from the beginning of the 21st century. In the future, it is supposed that more than one kimberlite field, including a diamond-bearing one, could be discovered on the vast areas of Western Yakutia, Irkutsk region, and Krasnoyarsk Kray. Comparatively lately discovered and explored diamond-bearing kimberlite pipelines in the Arkhangel'sk region give an additional potential for the future diamond stock of Russia. According to experts' evaluation, the total value of extracted gem quality diamonds in Russia reaches 1.3 million US dollars a year, and 2.3 million dollars annually including industrial diamonds. The physical amount of output, according to foreign evaluations, reaches 8-9 million carats of gem quality diamonds a year. Over 80% of stones are extracted from the Udachnaya pipe. A small amount of high-grade jeweller diamonds was obtained by the state enterprise "Uralalmaz" in the Permsky region. Output has fallen: in the 1980s, the amount of output of all sorts of diamonds had reached 40 million carats, including jeweller diamonds—14 million carat.

Today the complete cycle of works connected with the diamond industry is carried out in Russia— prospecting and exploring of deposits, exploring, sorting, evaluation, faceting, and selling of final products (i.e., jewellery and technical products.)

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