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South African Diamonds South Africa is currently the worlds fifth largest producer of natural diamonds In 1995 some 98 million carats of rough diamonds were produced A high percentage of these diamonds was of gem and near-gem quality Diamonds occur in pipes and fissures of kimberlite as well as in alluvial and marine deposits Pipes of kimberlite are commonly circular in shape and become smaller with increasing depth The well-known Premier Pipe at Cullinan in Gauteng the largest in South Africa covers an area of 54 ha Approximately one out of every 100 pipes can be economically mined As the elements erode diamond-bearing pipes the stones are liberated from the kimberlite and transported over long distances Such diamonds are transported in rivers and can be concentrated as alluvial deposits in riverbeds This kind of deposit is found mainly in the North-West the northern Free State and the Northern Cape Diamonds transported by rivers enter the sea and are distributed along the shore by wave action to form marine alluvial diamond deposits These diamond deposits are restricted to the west coast in particular the coastline north and south of the Orange River mouth at Alexander Bay in the Northern Cape Owing to weathering most of these diamonds are typically of gemstone quality Diamond-mining operations in South Africa are dominated by De Beers Consolidated Mines a company originally formed through the consolidation of the old Kimberley mines The former Kimberley mine the Big Hole has been declared a national monument and a museum depicting the history of diamond mining in the country has been established near the site South Africa has an established diamond cutting industry All rough diamonds mined locally are first offered for sale to the cutting industry Those stones that cannot be processed locally are available for export A new system was introduced in January 1993 whereby only De Beers may export all of
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