Diamonds were found in China about 200 to 300 years ago. Between the Ming and Qing dynasties (in c. the 17th century), farmers in Hunan Province panned river sands and reco-vered diamonds from the placers. Geological exploration for diamonds began in the 1950s. Up to now six famous diamonds, each with a weight greater than 90 carats, have been found in China; for example, "the Changlin diamond" weighs about 158 carats.
Little is known about the quantity and quality of diamonds produced in China, although there seems to be great potential. China produced an estimated 300 000 ct in 2002, mainly from small operators. Australian junior Astro Mining withdrew from exploration in 2000.
Astro Mining's chief geologist has formed a company called Redox Diamonds which has an interest in exploring for diamonds in five provinces (Shandong, Liaoning, Anhui, Jiangsu and Shaanxi Provinces), with the remaining interest held by the Chinese Provincial Bureau’s of Geology and Mineral Resources (BGMR).
The most promising developments are located at the producing 701 Changma diamond mine in the Mengshan area in the Shandong Province. The 701 Changma mine has historically been China's largest producer - producing over 1 Mct over the last 27 years. Canadian Pan Asia Mining Corp currently operates the mine that produced 38 400ct in 2000 from its opencast operation. It intends expanding operations underground, to produce 285 000 ct/year. Pan Asia are currently evaluating the 702 project located in the Mengyin County of Shandong Province, close to the 701 Mine. Pan Asia intends setting up a small open pit program focusing on a cluster of 8 kimberlites - to produce 25 000 ct per year.
Other prospective areas include the Ordos Basin in the Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi Provinces, where there are known producing kimberlites. These areas are mostly underlain by stable Archaean age craton, prospective for the preservation of diamondiferous kimberlite pipes.
China discovered kimberlite and diamond primary deposit in Guizhou and Shandong provinces successively in 1965, and diamond primary deposit in Liaoning province in 1971. Currently China’s known gross diamond reserve is 23 million carats.
At present, the two diamond primary mines in operation in China are located in Wafangdian, Liaoning province and in Mengyin, Shandong province respectively.
The Wafangdian mine used to produce 100,000 carats rough annually, 65% of which are for jewelry use. Its No.50 kimberlite pipe had been extracted for over 20 years before it was closed in 2004. The mine will begin extraction on its other kimberlite pipes.
The Mengyin diamond mine has a reserve of 11 million carats. In recent years, its annual output is about 10,000 carats, 85% of which are for industrial use.