In 2003 Russia produced 11.8 Mct compared to 11.5 Mct in 2002. Russia accounts for 21% of global diamonds produced. Most of Russia’s diamonds are located in three regions, the Arkhangelsk oblast, Perm oblast and the Sakha/Yakutsk Republic.
In 2001, De Beers and Alrosa renewed their trade agreement that will last until 2006. Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of gem quality diamonds. Russia’s main diamond mining enterprise, Almazy Rossii-Sakha (Alrosa), which mines over 98% of the country’s diamond output in the Sakha/Yakutsk Republic, is planning to increase production by commissioning the first stage of a mining and beneficiation complex at the Yubeleyniy openpit and by developing the Botuobinskaya pipe. Alrosa produces diamonds from seven hard-rock deposits (pipes of Udachny, Zarnitsa, Sytykan, Jubilee, Mir, Aikhal and International) and at three alluvial operations (Irelyakh River, Vodorazdelnye Galechniki and Yraas-Yuryakh Creek).
The major Russian producers operate large open-pit mines on the Udachnaya and Jubilee kimberlite pipes in the Sakha Republic (formerly Yakutia). A 301 ct diamond was recovered from Udachnaya in August 2003. All other open-pit mines are closed, but underground mining has started at International, Aikhal and Zarnitsa. The new Nakyn field of two major kimberlite pipes is also being developed for open-pit mining.
Alrosa intends developing the Lomonosov deposit (comprising five kimberlite pipes) that is thought to be one of Europe’s largest diamond deposits. It is anticipated that the project could cost between $420 – $746 million to develop. De Beers had an initial interest in the project through its interest in Severalmaz, the Russian company with the licence to develop the Lomonosov pipes. However, after spending over $30 million on the project, De Beers had decided to discontinue its development activities and is reported to have started investigations at its Lushkaya project between St Petersburg and the Estonian border.North Star Diamonds is exploring in western Ukraine.
The legal battle by Archangel Diamond Corp (ADC) to have the title over the Verkhotina licence (which includes the economic Grib pipe) transferred to Almazny Bereg, a Russian company in which ADC holds 40% equity, is still unresolved. The Verkhotina area is located in northwestern Russia, 150 km north of Archangel. The area contains numerous diamondiferous kimberlites, including the Lomonosov group, where open-pit mining is reported to have commenced by Severalmaz, a company controlled by Alrosa.
Australian subsidiary of Rio Tinto, Ashton, has been evaluating ground in the Russian republic of Karelia, near the Finnish border. Ashton holds 80% equity in the licence and the Karelian Government 20%. Apparently a large diamond-bearing kimberlite has been located at Kemozero. A Russian joint stock company has been formed between Ashton and Alrosa to evaluate this area. Here Alrosa can earn a 51% interest in the joint venture by spending $3 million. The area of interest forms part of the Archaean-Proterozoic Baltic Shield of north western Europe, including large parts of Finland and north west Russia. Diamondiferous kimberlite provinces of the Baltic Shield are known to occur in Finland and in the Archangelsk region.