Alrosa opens Russia’s largest diamond mine

Alrosa opens Russia’s largest diamond mine

The Udachny quarry.

Russia-owned diamond miner Alrosa has began underground operations at its massive Udachny project in northeast Russia, expected to become the country’s largest diamond mine and one of the world’s biggest.

The Udachny (meaning “lucky”) mine, discovered in 1955, used to be an open-pit-only operation, but it is approaching the end of its mine life, by 2015. After that, Alrosa plans to begin commercial production from the beneath-the-surface kimberlite pipe, which is projected to generate over 5 million carats of diamonds per year.

Open-pit mining at the Udachny kimberlite pipe, one of Alrosa’s largest deposits, began in 1971, with the company obtaining about US$80 billion from the precious gems mined at the site throughout its operation.

The world’s No.1 diamond company by output said that underground mining will begin in parallel to the open-pit mine until next year, aiming to produce between 2.4 and 3 million tons of ore per year by 2016, and 4 million tons per year by 2019.

The city of Udachny, located in north Siberia, about 17 km from the Arctic Circle, has become one of Russia’s major diamond-mining centres.

Diamond giant

Aside from this mine, Alrosa also operates the International and Aikhal underground mines, with the designed capacity of 500 thousand tons of ore per year, and the Mir underground mine, which can reach 1 million tons of ore per year at full-tilt.

Currently the miner’s main processing facilities are in Western Yakutia and the Arkhangelsk region, as well as in Africa —in Angola and Botswana.

In total, the company is developing 22 deposits. In October 2013, the company held a successful IPO on the Moscow Stock Exchange, during the course of which 16% of the company’s shares were sold. This raised about $1.3 billion.

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