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18:16 | Oct 11 | 2013

Pantry of Far Eastern Diamonds

Udacny is a town of white nights in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). If you drive 20 km north, you get to the Arctic Circle. When I was moving from taiga to tundra, trees were flying by me and were getting lower and lower; then, a huge hole in the ground appeared out of nowhere. Its diameter at the widest point is 2.4 km; its depth is 640 meters. This is a mine Udachny, where diamonds – such rear minerals in the world - are extracted. There is a spiral way on the inner side of the mine from the surface to the bottom. Heavy machinery mines ore at the bottom of the pit.

This mine is owned by the state diamond monopoly “Alrosa” - a world leader by the diamonds extraction volume. Open mining in the pit is almost over; diamonds extraction will soon be held underground. Until 2011, this mine has been provided over 10 million carats annually - about 10% of the total production of diamonds in the world. It is the largest mine in Russia, which gives tens of billions yen of profit a year.

Udachny town with a population of 12,000 people spreads out around the mine; the town was built specially for the diamond mining. Until the mid-90s, Udacny was a closed town; no one could enter it without a special permit. The main town enterprise is Udachninsky MPP of “Alrosa” JSC. The town school, hospital, and church were constructed on the company's money; 90 % of the population’s activities are in some way connected with “Alrosa” company.

In 2009, “Alrosa” surpassed the company “De Beers” by diamond extraction volume, which had been a leader in this market for almost a century. Last year, the company produced 34.4 million carats - 27% of the total global production volume of 126 million carats. Diamonds from 10 fields of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) make up 97 % of all diamond mining in Russia. These diamonds are famous for their purity and high quality; more and more they appear in the international market.

We entered Mirny town with a population of about 50,000 people; it is located about 500 km south of Udachny. This is the place where Russia began the modern diamond mining; the head office of “Alrosa” company is also located here.

Having received a special permit, we went down into the mine “Internatsionalny”, where diamonds are mined underground. Open-pit mining is already over there. The deepest mine part is nearly 1,000 meters; underground roads are stretching for 35 km.

Before the descent, we were dressed in overalls, helmets and were even given a portable lifeguard with oxygen supply in case of emergency, which looked like a lunch box. We were downing at reckless speed to a depth of 600 meters in a two-floored lifting device, which fitted 120 people. It was said, that there were miners from Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and even Japan working in the mine. When I come out of the elevator, I saw a shaft of 5-7 meters in diameter. We sat in a car transporting workers underground; the road was branching as a labyrinth. The road started to descend spirally; all this was similar to a huge underground city.

We arrived at the site where an excavator was producing kimberlite – a rock containing diamonds. The way from the surface to here took us about 40 minutes. The excavator was crumbling rock raising dust.

“Oh! Diamond!”- Mr. Kurnev, a district geologist of “Alrosa”, pointed to a mountain massif. There was a sparkling diamond in it. The number of diamonds contained in one ton of ore is microscopic, so, it was a very rare opportunity to see it in a rock. Mr. Kurnev told us that the field was very small in diameter - just 100 meters, but the diamonds content in it was one of the highest in the world.

The Chief Engineer of “Alrosa”, Andrey Pismenny, which had given us an interview at the head office, said with confidence: “The global diamond output is falling, but we have reserves for several decades. The annual increase in diamond prices is forecasted to be over 5%; our profit will also grow”.

Source: http://ysia.ru