Africa is the world’s largest sustainable economic development and 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, Ghana, Tanzania, Lesotho and Botswana), followed by alluvial dredging operations (Angola 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 is rated as an exciting discovery 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 impossible, with DiamondWorks and Southern Era struggling. 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 bankrolls Unita’s war effort.
South Africa produced 10.7 million carats in 1998, primarily from De Beers operated mines and offshore marine operations. Southern Era’s mining operations at its Klipspringer operation continue well now that the Marsfontein issue has been settled with De Beers earning 60% and Southern Era the remaining 40%.
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 20 million carats per year.
Diamond mining is one of Namibia’s main export products, contributing $US 390 000 per annum. This represents a total of 1.5 million carats, most of which were 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. ODM also has significant operations in Namibia, producing 57 000 carats in 1998. An estimated 1500 million carats of reserves are located in the marine environment. Recent improvements in marine mining methods, led by De Beers Marine, Namco and Benco, 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 produce a majority of Angola’s diamonds, although large amounts of production are still being produced by UNITA and artisinal workers (of which some production is purchased by UNITA). Several foreign companies are involved in the development or exploration of potential kimberlitic and alluvial deposits. Unfortunately the security situation has not assisted in this process. It is not known when hostilities will cease, if at all. Angola produced just over 5 million carats in 1998, at an average price of $US 136 / carat.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Diamond production from the DRC continues with 21 million carats being produced in 1998 making the DRC the second largest producers of diamonds after Botswana. Artisinal production contributes more than two thirds of production.