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Diamonds are made of pure carbon in a crystallised form, although they often contain other minerals. Diamonds are usually clear, although they have a range of colours, such as pink, gold or blue, and are an excellent refractor of light.

Approximately 250 tonnes of ore must be dug from the ground to produce a one carat (200 milligram) polished diamond of gem quality. Diamond mines are open-cut or underground. The ore is blasted with explosives then loaded onto trucks for transport to a processing plant where it is cleaned and sorted.

It was not until the late 1970’s that geologists found the Argyle ‘pipe’ in the remote Kimberley area of Western Australia: the richest diamond deposit in the world. The mine has been operating since 1983 and has produced more than 800 million carats of rough diamonds. It is one of the world’s largest suppliers of diamonds and the world’s largest supplier of natural coloured diamonds including the famous Argyle pink diamonds. Large-scale, open-pit mining was initially used to extract diamond ore at Argyle. The mine is now a large scale underground operation.


A number of small diamond ‘pipes’ have been mined at Ellendale in the west Kimberley region, which is currently not in operation. In August 2018, the WA Government called for expressions of interest to reopen Ellendale, which previously provided about half of the world’s highly valued fancy yellow diamonds.

*Sources: Rio Tinto, Geoscience Australia, WA Government.