Africa is the world’s largest producer of diamonds, producing as much as 50% of global production. To date, Africa has produced over 75%, in value, of the world’s diamonds with more than 1.9 billion carats worth an estimated $US 158 billion mined.
Mining activities are centered around South Central Africa, with diamonds being produced primarily from kimberlite mines (South Africa, Angola, DRC, Ghana, Tanzania, Lesotho and Botswana), followed by alluvial dredging operations (Angola, CAR, Namibia and South Africa) and offshore marine diamond activities (South Africa and Namibia).
Most of West Africa’s diamond production in the area originates from fluviatile placers and only on a minor scale from eluvial deposits or from altered kimberlite pipes. Virtually all mines are relatively small-scale operations mainly run by artisanal miners, except for the Akwatia mine in Ghana and the Aredor project in Guinea.
Main artisinal production is centered around the following areas:
- East-central C.A.R., centred around Mouka, Ouadda and Yalinga,
- south western CAR,
- the Birim Diamond Field in Ghana,
- the Yengema area in Sierra Leone,
- south-central Guinea around Gbenko and
- the Lofa River in north-western Liberia.
In most cases, the primary sources of these alluvial diamonds have not been traced yet, therefore making an attractive exploration target.
The discovery of potential diamondiferous kimberlites in Mauritania by Rex Diamonds and Ashton is rated as exciting discoveries and could yield potential. The continuing conflict in Angola between Unita rebels and Angolan Government troops (MPLA) is beginning to spill over into neighboring Namibia and Zambia. As a result, legitimate efforts to produce diamonds in Angola proved yet again difficult. The United Nations wishes to prohibit the purchase of the Angolan stones by the CSO in order to strangle the diamond trade in Angola, which apparantly bankrolls Unita’s war effort. As a result, the Kimberley Process has been set up to deal with the issue of conflict diamonds.
South Africa produced 11.1 Mct in 2003, primarily from De Beers operated mines and offshore marine operations. Several foerign junior mining companies are making good progress on exploiting South Africa’s lucrative inland alluvial resources, as well as re evaluate the shallow marine resources located along the West Coast of South Africa .
Botswana has the strongest economy in Africa, and also has the highest GDP / person in Africa. The dependence on diamond mining activities on Botswana’s economy is great. Debswana (De Beers Botswana) is a joint company with the Botswana Government. Debswana currently operate three large open cast operations, which produce nearly all of Botswana’s 26.5 Mct per year. In 2003 increased its production to 30.4 Mct.
Diamond mining is one of Namibia’s main export products, producing 1.4 Mct in 2003, a majority of which is produced by De Beers’ Namibian subsidiary, Namdeb. However, new producers in Namibia are Canadian listed Namibian Mining Corporation (Namco) which has made impressive progress with its marine mining operations. Recent improvements in marine mining methods, led by De Beers Marine, Namco and DFI/Trans Hex, will make these operations more lucrative. The entire coastline of Namibia is currently being explored / exploited for marine diamonds deposits. With the rapid influx of diamond exploration companies, in particular marine operators, Namibia has legislated a new Diamond Act, which will further control and regulate the production and sale of rough diamonds.
Endiama, Angola’s state run company still produces a majority of Angola’s diamonds, although large amounts of production are still being produced by artisinal workers. Several foreign companies are involved in the development or exploration of potential kimberlitic and alluvial deposits. Following the recent peace initiatives in Angola, the security situation has improved considerably and Angola’s diamond potential can once again be appraised. Angola produced just over 3 Mct in 2003.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Diamond production from the DRC continues with 19.7 Mct being produced in 2001 making the DRC one of Africa’s largest producers of diamonds after Botswana. Artisinal production contributes more than half of the DRC’s production.