WA diamonds set in gold

THE value of diamond production in WA has increased substantially, mainly due to the devaluation of the Australian dollar, but partly due to the Asian economic crisis. The volume of diamonds sold from WA dropped more than 19 per cent to 42 million carats in 1987-98.

However, due to devaluation of the Australian dollar and the increased quality of diamonds sold, sales value was up a dramatic 36 per cent to $538 million according to the Department of Minerals And Energy.

All WA diamond production came from the Argyle diamond mine operation, rated the world’s biggest individual diamond mine.

The fiscal year of 1996-97 marked Argyle’s first year of selling diamonds directly to the market after it broke away from the cartel of the Central Selling Organisation (CSO). Consequently, sales volumes in 1997-98 were lower compared to the aggressive marketing of 1996-97.

A greater proportion of higher-grade diamonds (gem and near gem) was an additional factor boosting the value of sales in 1997-98.

This was helped by more selective production and improved processing techniques which vastly improved the presentation of rough diamonds. Combined, these aided in maximising the run of mine price.

Ironically, developments stemming from the economic downturn in Asia have been a factor in the growth in demand for lower value diamond products. Gem buyers in Asia are opting to buy lower quality diamonds to help overcome the weaker purchasing power of their currencies.

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