Russia is one of the world's largest producers of natural, as well as synthetic, diamonds. All Russian diamond mines are publicly owned and operated. High-quality diamonds are generally sold to jewelry companies, while less aesthetically pleasing diamonds are sold for use in heavy industry. Russia also has one of the world's largest markets for synthetic diamonds, and has provided significant innovation in the process of diamond creation.
Russian diamonds are largely hidden under the permafrost of the nation's Arctic territory, and were not discovered in Russia until the 1950s. Intense mining of diamonds began in the mid 1950s, primarily for use in Soviet heavy industry.
The majority of Russian diamond mines are located in the far-eastern Republic of Yakutia. Most mines are located on the perimeter of the Arctic Circle. As far-eastern diamond mines are becoming exhausted, Russia has looked toward the Perm region in Western Russia as the next diamond-mining hub in the nation.
In the 1980s, Russian scientists were the first to develop an economically viable machine to produce diamonds. These machines drastically lowered the cost of producing diamonds, while simultaneously increasing their quality to near that of natural diamonds. Synthetic diamonds are favored for industrial usage, but still lack the aesthetic appeal for widespread use in jewelry.
Russian diamonds are located very deep within the earth, and therefore giant holes have been bored into the ground to more effectively extract these diamonds. The Mirna Diamond Mine, now exhausted, is the world's largest open-pit mine. Other Russian diamond mines use the same techniques and approach the size of Mirna.
Mines such as the Mirna have completely and irreparably changed the surrounding environment. After Mirna's diamond supply was exhausted, the Russian government abandoned the mine, leaving a massive 2,000-foot-deep crater. Because the cost of rehabilitating former diamond-mine sites is so great, these sites will likely never be repaired.