From early times, India was the source of near all the world’s known diamonds, and until the finding of diamonds in Brazil in 1726, India was the only place where diamonds were mined. India has not been a main diamond-producing country since the 1700s, but diamond mining continues.
In 2013, India mined 37,515cts of diamonds, from one industrial-scale mine and various artisanal mines; this was less than one-tenth of 1% of the world production of 132.9 million carats Diamond mining as an industry appears to have originated between 800 and 600 B.C. in India.
Accounts of ancient Indian diamond mining that reached Europe were often mixed with myths. Around 400 B.C., the Greek physician Ctesias published Indika, a compilation of travellers’ tales about India (he himself had never been to India). He described incredibly rich diamond deposits guarded by gryphons.
Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (79 A.D.), properly described diamonds being washed from river gravel in India. Diamonds were stated from numerous places across India, but most of the diamond mining took place by placer mining in the drainages of the Krishna and Pennar rivers in modern Andhra Pradesh state. Placer mining took place along the Krishna River for 300 kilometres below Sangram.
The most intensive mining was in a 60-kilometre zone along the river, from the Kollur Mine to Paritala. This area was the source of many legendary gems, including the Regent, Koh-i-Noor, Nizam Great Mogul, Hope, and Orlov diamonds.
India’s sole status as a producer of diamonds sustained to fascinate Europeans. Marco Polo travelled along the coast of India in 1292, and recorded tales he heard about diamonds being found in deep mountain valleys made nearly inaccessible by heat, lack of water, and venomous snakes.
The French traveller Jean Baptiste Tavernier visited the Krishna River diggings in 1665 and estimated that about 60,000 people were mining diamonds. Diamond mining in the Panna region about 1675 AD was started during the rule of Chhatrasal, the Bundela ruler. Diamond mining has sustained in Panna region.
As of 2017, there was a unique industrial-scale diamond mine in India, the Majhgawan mine, near the town of Panna, Madhya Pradesh. The deposit is in a lamproite or kimberlite pipe 6.5 ha in area and yields 10 ct to the ton. Mining is finished by an open pit, which was 85 m deep as of 2011. Exploration drilling has established that the pipe remains down to at least 330 meters.
The mine is owned by the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), services 199 people, and has a productive capacity of 84,000 ct per year. The mine started regular production in 1967, and to date, has produced slightly more than a million carats of diamonds.
There are also many artisanal-scale mines. In the Panna mining district, the Madhya Pradesh(M.P) government lets 8x8m plots to individuals, who wash the gravel for diamonds.
All diamonds found are required to be handed over to the government diamond office in Panna, which markets the gems, and gives the sales proceeds to the finders, fewer taxes and 11.5 per cent royalty.
In 2016, there were formally 952 artisanal mines, which produced 835 carats of diamonds. However, there is a strange number of small unlawful mines and an unknown quantity of diamonds sold on the black market.
The Rio Tinto Group open the Bunder diamond deposit in 2004 in Chhatarpur district near Buxwaha. The deposit is in a naturally sensitive area. In February 2017, Rio Tinto quit effort on the project and gave the deposit and all on-site equipment to the government of Madya Pradesh.