Move over Alrosa, Rio Tinto wants to drive growth in India’s diamond sector
Mining giant Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) hinted Thursday its 30-year partnership with the Indian diamond industry makes it the best fit to drive the sector’s growth in the country.
Speaking at the World Diamond Conference in Delhi, Rio Tinto Diamonds managing director Jean-Marc Lieberherr said the company’s presence in the local industry was a decades-long journey that covers “everything” — from diamond manufacturing technology, to market development initiatives and “the first diamond discovery in India in decades.”
His statement comes barely a week after the news of Russian President Vladimir Putin aiming to secure a long-sought deal with India that would significantly boost exports of state-owned diamond miner Alrosa.
The Russian miner is expected to sign today a dozen deals with Indian buyers to increase direct deliveries to Asia's third-largest economy, as financial capital Mumbai aspires to expand as a trading hub.
Rio said it remains bullish about the opportunities India has to offer, even though its flagship diamond project in the country, Bunder (monkey in Hindi), has run into permit hurdles.
Environmentalists have been raising concerns over potential threats to a tiger corridor about 100 km from the deposit in the in Madhya Pradesh region. So Rio is now working on securing environment and forest clearances to get its final mining plan approved.
"Development of our Bunder diamond project in Madhya Pradesh is a natural continuation of the partnership model and would put India among the top 10 diamond producing countries in the world,” Lieberherr said.
The touted project, discovered in 2004, is expected to generate about 30,000 jobs and produce up to 3 million carats a year, Rio has said.
Once operational, Bunder will be one of the only four diamond mines globally that are likely to be operational over the next decade.
The company also said that its Argyle Diamonds mine in Australia will be delivering increased volumes from 2015, which will have a direct impact on the Indian manufacturing sector.