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Expert reveals Russian region which produces 15% of world’s diamonds

The diamond deposits in Yakutia were found in the 1950s, and the discovery was kept top secret

MIRNY, /Yakutia/, June 13. /TASS/. There are no reasons to fear depletion of large diamond deposits in Yakutia within next 20 years, experts say. The republic remains a world leader in this sphere. Nowadays, it produces 15% of all diamonds on the Earth, Head of the Diamond-Sorting Center Oleg Popov told TASS.

In 2016, Yakutia’s diamond producer Alrosa reported the output at 37.2 million carats, and in 2017, the company plans to produce up to 39 million carats. At Yakutia’s pits, the share of big diamonds - to six carats - is under five percent, and the share of diamonds of ten carats is only 0.1% from the produced crystals, he said.

Failed forecast

The diamond deposits in Yakutia were found in the 1950s, and the discovery was kept top secret. The first crystals were found in the area of the Zarnitsa kimberlite pipe. Back then, geologists wanted to cypher the news so that even radio operators could not guess what they meant. So, they telegraphed to Moscow: "We lit pipe, tobacco is good."

Local historians explain, the words in that telegram "we lit pipe" meant the geologists had found the kimberlite pipe, and the words "tobacco is good" meant many diamonds in it. Not many believed the diamonds from Yakutia could get to the market.

The local museum still keeps an article from The New York Times, which doubts a beast or bird could get to the diamonds there, to say nothing about a human. The article’s author forecasted Yakutia’s diamonds might get to the global market no sooner than in the early XXI century.

"We are happy that forecast has failed. Nowadays, Yakutia produces 15% of all diamonds in the world, and staff of the Mirnyi’s Center is top busy doing the job," the expert said.

The personnel have tough schedules, as their work is linked to the timetable of flights. The center has to fit in four days to receive and sort crystals and then to send them to the seller - a company in Moscow.

The sorting process

"We receive diamonds from all the diamond provinces in Yakutia," the expert continued. "We receive them in six classes and then sort them down into 16 classes to meet the market requirements."

The director shows the rooms, where sorting continues. The rooms look rather like cabinets of a research institute with many items of different equipment and centrifuges filled with spinning diamonds. All the staff wear white gowns, hats and shoe covers. The sorted diamonds are stored in safe boxes, which look like bank storages.

"Through round sieves we sort small diamonds depending on sizes. Medium diamonds are put into a special centrifuge, sending them to a weight cell, which automatically fixes on a computer all data on a crystal. Big diamonds are crystals of one and more carats, their share at Yakutia’s pits is not more than 5%," he said.

Stealing diamonds from the Center is simply impossible, he continued, as all of them are registered in a special information system, which traces crystals from the Center, where they are identified as precious stones, to the selling company. Another task for the Center is to analyze the mining companies, which produce diamonds. This is necessary to see the pit’s economic efficiency.

"Before sending out the diamonds, we test soil from every supply. Within a month, we collect a complete test, which contains 3,500-4,000 diamonds of various sizes. Our task is to understand what happens in the pit: whether it is effective and how it develops. The recent data show the best in size and other criteria diamonds are produced at the Internatsionalny pit - this is the most expensive diamond deposit," he said.

Dangerous job

The Center’s most employees are women. Sorting stones requires great concentration, which is more typical for women, the Center’s director said.

"We have problems with the personnel, as in Mirny nobody trains these skills. Inviting specialists from elsewhere is not profitable. The most important skills in our jobs are experience and the desire to work," he said.

The women, who sort crystals, do not treat them as precious stones. They told TASS there is "nothing romantic" in their job, and they consider diamonds objects simply for research, not luxury objects.

"The wages at the Center are not high, comparable with wages of engineers, though they (the personnel - TASS) are paid for the dangerous job. The diamonds are not hazardous - the danger is in the static position, the personnel keeps for 8-10 hours while sorting the crystals. The job also affects the sight, as sorting requires use of enlarging devices," the director said.

People working at the Center say Thursdays are worst days. On Thursday, planes are to take off for Moscow - carrying the precious stones, and for the north - to the pits, delivering the monthly tests. "We receive diamonds on Monday, and before Thursday we must finish sorting them, as we do not reject any crystals: some diamonds go to jewelry stores, and some are used for diamond grit and other products," he said.

The Center

The diamond-sorting center in Mirny opened in 1990. It has a few departments: "storage," classification, sorting, mineral research, analytical and others.

The center’s another important task is to research diamonds from new pits and to give initial forecasts for new pipes. The institution has a full collection of diamonds produced in Yakutia’s province during many years of geological prospecting. The center’s staff have analyzed and researched diamond products worth more than $35 billion.