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Russian Diamond Output Stayed Vague With Rough Details

1990: Russian Diamond Output Does Not Seem Satisfactory

October 1997

What is Russia's total rough diamond production? For the most part, it is still a secret.

For example, the US Geological Survey puts 1996 Russian diamond production at 18.5 million while the European-based Metals and Minerals Annual Review estimates 1996 Russian diamond production at 12.5 million carats - that's a discrepancy of more than 30%. A further example of the imprecise information on Russian production is a New York Times article from 10/14/97, in which it is stated that ARS alone accounts for "nearly one third of the world's crude diamonds." A CSO executive recently put the ARS production at 26% of De Beers'sales. However, this volume will probably be reduced substantially in 1997 and 1998.

These variations in production estimates are apparently due to the tradition of secrecy in Russian political culture under the Soviet Union which made such statistical information a state secret. But now it appears this tradition may be changing - to a degree. Russia's vice premier Vladimir Bulgak told reporters recently that information concerning production at Russia's Arkhangelsk diamond deposit will no longer be a state secret, but a commercial secret.

The new classification is intended to open the mine up for investment, of which, unofficially, some $700 million is required to initiate diamond production at the site.

Interestingly, Russia's ARS, which usually works closely with De Beers on marketing diamonds, seems to be competing with the latter on who will be the principal investor in the mine. Meanwhile, ARS debt has been trading at $0.65 on the dollar on Russian financial exchanges. This should jump up when a deal is reached with De Beers.


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