Russian diamond miner Alrosa reported a slower-than-usual first quarter but started mining at previously untapped deposit.
Moscow—Alrosa’s rough diamond sales dropped in the first quarter, with the mining company noting the market was “weaker than usual.”

The company reported last week that first quarter sales in volume terms totaled 10.6 million carats, which was up 18 percent quarter-over-quarter but down 21 percent compared with the same period last year.

Total sales in value terms grew 19 percent quarter-over-quarter to $1 billion but, like volume sales, declined sharply year-over-year, dropping 37 percent.

Alrosa described the diamond market as “weaker than usual” for the first quarter due to “lower jewelry sales during the Christmas season,” and said 2019 was off to an uneven start in all key markets.

It also noted continuing liquidity issues in India’s cutting and polishing industry, where lending remains tight following the Nirav Modi scandal.

Average realized prices for gem-quality rough diamonds were down 20 percent year-over-year and 19 percent quarter-over-quarter for Alrosa to $123 per carat. The decline was due to both Alrosa selling more small diamonds and prices dropping for medium-sized goods.

First quarter diamond production, meanwhile, was up 5 percent year-over-year to 7.8 million carats.

Also last week, the Russian diamond miner announced that it has started mining a formerly untapped diamond deposit in Siberia.

The Zarya pipe is located within the operational zone of the company’s Aikhal Mining and Processing Division. The division consists of two open-pit mines, Yubileyny (Jubilee) and Komsomolsky, and one underground mine, Aikhal. It produces about 30 percent of the company’s rough diamonds and employs more than 4,500 people.

Alrosa said the rough diamonds mined at Zarya, which is located less than two miles from Aikhal’s processing facilities, will help to compensate for the lower output at Komsomolsky.

The pipe is expected to produce a maximum of 1.25 million tons of ore per year, with a life span of 11 years. The company began preparing Zarya for mining in 2016 and has sunk 12 billion rubles ($187.4 million) into the project.

CEO Sergey Ivanov called the opening of the new mine a “landmark event” for Alrosa and Russia.

“It is already the second deposit launched in Yakutia in such a short span of time, which demonstrates the mineral wealth of our homeland and enormous potential of our company,” he said.

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