The End of Australian Diamond Mining?
The Argyle mine of Western Australia is one of the world’s largest diamond mines. Since 1983, it has produced around 825 million carats of rough diamonds. And, after decades of production, it is closing. Operations are winding down, and production will cease by the end of 2020. Though stones are still in the ground, it is no longer viable for miners to dig for them.
Mine operators say it will take up to five years to fully decommission the mine. During this period, land will be rehabilitated, while preserving the ecological and cultural heritage of Argyle. Mine employees will transition to new roles within the company, or be supported in new career paths.
Diamonds from Argyle
At the peak of production, Argyle was responsible for about 40% of world diamond output by volume. Also, about 90% of colored diamonds come from Argyle – including coveted pink diamonds. Argyle was also the first to introduce stunning champagne diamonds.
However, colored stone production is only 1% of the mine’s output! When considering total Australian diamond mining, the Argyle mine accounts for over 90% of production. It’s fair to say that this mine is Australian diamond mining.
Machinery is purpose built for mining Argyle. These machines recover and sort rough material directly from the earth. In addition, the mine operators developed specialize X-ray technology to help sort tiny diamonds.
The Future of Australian Diamond Mining
But what does the closure mean for the future of diamonds? Some experts are predicting that world supply will drop by about 10%. One prominent analyst goes so far to say that the industry will take about two years to recover from this loss.
In general, demand for diamonds has been dropping since the coronavirus pandemic. And, prices for diamond rough have been falling by up to 27%. In many places, miners are being forced to cancel or delay sales. Also, many major diamond shows and events are being postponed or canceled due to COVID-19. As a result, there is a glut of stones in the market not being sold.
In some areas, like India, where many gems are processed, workers are leaving. And, many do not plan on returning. Coupled with new diamond ventures looking slim, things appear to be up in the air about the future of diamonds in general. To make things worse, many temporary mine closures are becoming permanent.
A New Find?
Despite this, the search for new sources continues. Once such location is the Ellendale diamond field. Located in the far north of Western Australia, this mine has been an off-and-on diamond producer since the 1970s. Ellendale is known for producing stunning yellow diamonds.
While many have tried and failed, new advances in technology could make mining at Ellendale profitable. In addition, the Australian government has spent about AUS $230,000 on rehabilitating the site and making it ready for new operations.
However, experts doubt there will ever be a diamond mine that could equal the success of Argyle. Prices are expected to rise as there will not be another source of affordable stones. Pink stones, in particular, are seeing their prices skyrocket. While the do occur elsewhere, only Argyle has reliably produced them over the decades since their discovery.
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