March 13, 2020
Diamond mining giant Alrosa recently pulled an unexpected treasure from its new deposit at Verkhne-Munskoye in the frigid, sparsely populated Russian outpost of Yakutia. The 17.44-carat bright yellow, gem-quality stone could signal a vast new source of super-rare, super-valuable fancy colored diamonds.
“This is the first rough diamond with bright color found at the Verkhne-Munskoye since it was launched in 2018,” said Evgeny Agureev, Deputy CEO of Alrosa. “The United Selling Organization of Alrosa will assess and evaluate this stone in detail. We hope this deposit will give us more large and interesting discoveries in the future.”
Prior to the recent discovery, Alrosa's supply of natural-color rough diamonds originated in two locations: just north of Yakutia and in the Arkhangelsk region more than 2,000 miles to the west. Fancy colored diamonds are in short supply and can sell for 10 times as much as equivalent colorless stones.
Alrosa is the world's largest diamond supplier by volume, but gem-quality colored diamonds make up less than 0.1% of the company's overall output. The stones are processed at the company's cutting and polishing division, which recently produced such unique pieces as the 20.69-carat fancy vivid yellow "Firebird" and the 14.80-carat fancy vivid purple-pink "Spirit of the Rose."
Alrosa is looking to become a major player in gem-quality colored diamonds, a segment of the industry now dominated by Rio Tinto and Anglo American’s De Beers. Alrosa's new discovery of fancy yellow diamonds comes at a time when Rio Tinto’s exhausted Argyle Mine in Western Australia is scheduled to cease operations. The mine had been the world’s primary source for pink, red and blue diamonds.
The Verkhne-Munskoye diamond deposit is located west of Yakutia, 170 km from the town of Udachny. Today it is the largest investment project of Alrosa, with expenditures already surpassing $218 million. The Verkhne-Munskoye deposit will supply 1.8 million carats of rough diamonds per year, and its reserves should insure production through the year 2042.
As reported by Business Insider, Alrosa extracted 36.7 million carats of diamonds in 2018. The production was derived from 12 mines in sparsely inhabited Siberia. Most of those are in the Sakha Republic, or Yakutia, a region five times the size of France with only a million inhabitants. Most of Alrosa's 35,000 employees are based in that region.
Credits: Diamond images courtesy of Alrosa. Map by Google Maps.