Rio Tinto’s diamond business celebrated 30 years in India with a tribute in Mumbai to the extraordinary Indo-Argyle partnership. At a celebratory dinner for customers and diamond industry partners on June 27th, Rio Tinto’s management reflected on the groundbreaking partnership that began with the first influx of diamonds from the Argyle diamond mine in Western Australia in the 1980s.
Alan Chirgwin, vice president of sales and marketing for Rio Tinto’s Copper & Diamonds business, said, “Rio Tinto’s 30-year diamond history in India contains many milestones. Our Mumbai office was opened in 1989 in recognition of the growing importance of India as a major trading partner and diamond cutting centre. Argyle undertook its initial cutting tests in India and together with our Indian partners we have built innovative marketing programmes.
“The Indo-Argyle relationship has thrived on mutual respect and understanding. It gave the owners of Argyle considerable assurance, in June 1996, that it could take the lonely path of being the first diamond producer to independently market all of its production.”
Rio Tinto initiatives undertaken in partnership with the Indian diamond industry include the launch of the Indo Argyle Diamond Council (IADC) in 1993 to create awareness and acceptance of Indian-made diamond jewellery in the US. This paved the way for direct sales to US retailers and the groundbreaking Business Excellence Model, which drove safety, product assurance, quality management and continuous improvement in the diamond and jewellery manufacturing industries and retail trade in India.
More recently, Rio Tinto’s Australian Diamonds initiative in India has delivered a leading-edge tracking system for Argyle diamonds, developed in collaboration with downstream partners, for monitoring the movement of Rio Tinto’s rough Australian diamonds from their source at the Argyle mine through to finished jewellery.
Vikram Merchant, director of Rio Tinto’s diamonds sales and marketing business in India, said, “Thirty years ago, very few people would have predicted that India would become the powerhouse of the diamond industry that it is today. Rio Tinto is proud of the role of the Argyle diamond mine in this development and equally proud of the Indian diamond industry’s role in unlocking the beauty and value of our diamonds.”
Caption: Among the speakers at the Indo-Argyle partnership celebration event were (from left): Alan Chirgwin, vice president sales and marketing, copper and diamonds, Rio Tinto; Tony Huber, Australian Consular General to India; Nirupa Bhatt, managing director of GIA, India and Middle East; Sanjay Kothari, former chairman of the GJEPC; and Vikram Merchant, director of diamonds sales and marketing in India, Rio Tinto.