With Australia producing one third of the world's diamond supply, it is interesting to note that of all the minerals and gem stones discovered and mined in South Australia, diamond seems to be the least known. Many people would not believe that any were ever discovered in this state. However within twenty-five years of the founding of South Australia diamonds had been discovered on the alluvial goldfields at Echunga. In 1879 the Commissioner of Crown Lands engaged the services of G.T. Bean, an experienced gem digger to examine and report on the Echunga field.
He reported that diamonds had indeed been found in several localities and that Chapman's Gully looked very much like the diamond fields of the Kimberley in South Africa. Bean also recommended that a systematic search should be undertaken. Since then most diamonds found in that area were accidental discoveries while panning for gold.
It was the same story at Mount Kingston in the far north of South Australia that a diamond was discovered in 1894 by a small party looking for gold. Another diamond was discovered in the same area, at Algebuckina in 1908. Others have since been found at Edwards Creek, about hundred kilometres south from Oodnadatta.
More recently diamonds have been discovered by Stockdale in the Springfield Basin in the north of the State. This was followed by further discoveries in 1979 by Swan Resources. During late 1982 many low grade diamonds were located by Swan, and Joint Venture partners, Freeport by passing concentrates over a vibrating grease table.
Tiger International Resources, a Canadian company, recently secured a 70% interest in the diamond exploration project, covering more than 5,000 sq. kilometres, near Cradock from the Springfield Resources Syndicate. Under the direction of South Australian geologist Dr Kevin Wills, a member of the team responsible for the actual discovery of the famous Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia, diamonds were located at the Springfield Basin in 1983.
Tiger plans to spend up to $2 million on exploration and testing of the area. Contracts have been let to South Australian firms for site preparation, removal of overburden and the installation of a major mining and heavy mineral separation plant. It is expected that up to 3,000 tons of gravel will be used in their sample and concentrates will be analysed in Perth.
As has been the case during the last 150 years, the people of the Flinders Ranges have shown their interest and support for what could become a major mining project injecting much needed capital into the area. Cradock will be the first to benefit from the project as all field staff will be accommodated in the Cradock Hotel. Being located in County Kimberley, proclaimed in 1871, it could turn out to be a good omen.
Another recent attempt was made, by Western Australian based company Carnegie Minerals NL, at Old Karatta on Kangaroo Island. Australia is now the world's largest producer of diamonds (gem and industrial) with 36.4 per cent of world production in 1992. Most of this is from the Argyle Diamond Mine in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. This mine commenced operations in December 1985 and is the world's biggest single producer of diamonds. In 1992-93, 32.2 mega carats of diamonds (sorted and unsorted) were exported with a value of $483 million.