Rock points to potential diamond haul in Antarctica

Dec 17, 2013
View looking southeast from the locality of the kimberlite samples on the slopes of Mt Meredith, across the Lambert Glacier, towards the Fisher Massif, northern Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica. Credit: Dr Geoff Nichols

Australian geologists on Tuesday opened up the tantalising but controversial prospect that Antarctica could be rich in diamonds.

In a scientific paper published in the journal Nature Communications, a team said they had found a telltale rock called kimberlite in the Prince Charles Mountains in East Antarctica.

No were found in the samples, taken from Mount Meredith, and the study—focusing only on the region's geology, not on mining possibilities—was not designed to quantify how many could be there.

But, it said, the mineral's signature is identical to that in other locations in the world where diamonds have been found.

"The samples are texturally, mineralogically and geochemically typical of Group 1 kimberlites from more classical localities," said the probe, led by Greg Yaxley at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Kimberlite, a rock that is rarely found near Earth's surface, is believed to be formed at great depths in the mantle, where conditions are right for forming diamonds—carbon atoms that are squeezed into lattice shapes under extreme pressure and temperature.

The study suggested kimberlite was thrust towards the surface around 120 million years ago, when present-day Africa, the Arabian peninsula, South America, the Indian sub-continent, Australia and Antarctica were glommed together in a super-continent called Gondwana.

Outcrops of kimberlite studded the centre of Gondwana at this time.

The component continents then drifted apart, which explains why diamonds have been found in such diverse and distant locations, from Brazil to southern Africa and India, according to this theory.

Mining banned - for now

Independent experts were divided as to whether the discovery could unleash a diamond rush that would ravage the world's last pristine continent.

A treaty protecting Antarctica was signed in 1961 and was updated with an environmental protocol in 1991 whose Article 7 expressly prohibits "any activity relating to mineral resources."

The 1991 pact comes up for review in 2048, 50 years after it came into effect following ratification. It has been ratified by 35 nations.

Robert Larter, a geophysicist with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), said "the default assumption" was that the protocol will continue.

"Any change would require agreement of the majority of parties at a review conference, including three-quarters of the states which were Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties at the time of adoption of the protocol," he said in comments to Britain's Science Media Centre.

Teal Riley, a BAS survey geologist, said the discovery of kimberlite was "not unsurprising" given that the local geology in East Antarctica has a feature called cratons, a telltale of this rock.

"However, even amongst the Group 1 kimberlites, only 10 percent or so are economically viable, so it's still a big step to extrapolate this latest finding with any diamond mining activity in Antarctica," where extraction would be tougher and costlier.

But Kevin Hughes, a senior officer at an international panel called the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), was more cautious.

More than three decades from now, "we do not know what the treaty parties' views will be on mining... or what technologies might exist that could make extraction of Antarctic minerals economically viable," he said.

"An additional issue is that nations outside the protocol are not bound by its provisions, including the ban on mineral resource activities."

Kimberlite takes its name from the town of Kimberley, in South Africa, which was created by a diamond rush.

In 1871, a cook found a huge stone while digging on a farm, and within a year 50,000 prospectors were there, digging feverishly and living in a makeshift tented city.

Explore further: Diamonds grow like trees, but over millions of years

More information: dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms3921

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User comments : 25

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shavera
2 / 5 (4) Dec 17, 2013
Great now we can extend the slavery and cruelty of the diamond trade to Antarctica. We already have more diamonds than we need. The prices are kept artificially high by a cartel. Keep Antarctica free and preserved!
Shootist
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 17, 2013
Global warming? We'll mine diamonds the size of plover's eggs.

When can we get Todd Hoffman and Parker Schnable down there to do some prospecting?
obama_socks
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 17, 2013
Shavera...read the article again. No actual diamonds have been found...yet. They have found kimberlite, which leads them to believe that there is a greater potential of finding diamonds also.

Not all diamonds are considered precious to be used as jewelry. There are also flawed industrial diamonds that are broken down to use as grit...similar to sandpaper grit but much harder and stronger.
I agree that Antarctica should be kept pristine and preserved. Antarctic wildlife would appreciate that the continent not be overrun by people and machines with the resulting pollution and noise. But individual miners, just like rhino horn and elephant tusk poachers, will have to be prevented from searching for diamonds anywhere on that continent. That means that Antarctica will need to be patrolled by armed government agencies that have jurisdiction in those areas, and satellite observation.

If there are diamond there at all, I would think that they would have spewed out of existing volcanoes.
Maggnus
3 / 5 (6) Dec 17, 2013
I wonder if the kimberlite will be come more accessible as the continent warms. 30 years from now could see some pretty drastic changes in Antarctica. I also wonder if mining there would give an indication of how hard (or easy) it will be to extract resources from off world.

I am firmly in the camp of "let's keep it pristine".

Shootist, you're a wank.
foolspoo
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 17, 2013
Great now we can extend the slavery and cruelty of the diamond trade to Antarctica. We already have more diamonds than we need. The prices are kept artificially high by a cartel. Keep Antarctica free and preserved!


you are grossly ignorant to reality. enjoy hollywood
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (10) Dec 17, 2013
Has it occurred to anybody else that kimberlite's morphology and its association with diamonds looks suspiciously like the remnants of a former high-density electrical discharge? The notion should inspire some interest amongst diamond seekers in learning about such theories, free of the preconceived notions which typically prevail online ...

See http://www.thunde...lite.htm
Shootist
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 17, 2013
Keep Antarctica free and preserved!


For the love of god, why?
davidivad
1 / 5 (4) Dec 17, 2013
i bet there is uranium down there.
barakn
5 / 5 (5) Dec 17, 2013
I had no idea we would find anything about kimberlite at http://www.thunde...lite.htm
Shootist
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 17, 2013
Has it occurred to anybody else that kimberlite's morphology and its association with diamonds looks suspiciously like the remnants of a former high-density electrical discharge?


To answer your question: After having worked kimberlite deposits at Kelsey Lake Diamond Mine in Colorado? No.

Perhaps you should get out in the world and do something based in reality, instead of this mental masturbatory affliction with non-existent electrical and magnetic discharges?
Mimath224
2 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2013
Whether the kimberlite has diamonds or not is not really the point. The idea that Antarctica MAY have diamonds is enough for some people to start digging. Does anyone know what the penalty is for breaking the protocol? Are there patrols to ensure that mass non-scientific equipment is not unloaded?
JRi
3 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2013
I believe not all countries have signed the 1961 treaty, so the ban does not limit some nations. USA and Russia have signed it, though.
alfie_null
3 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2013
The scarcity, and thus value, of diamonds is artificial. Any prospective antarctic diamond miner will understand this (eventually). So it might not be as attractive a venture is it would appear at first glance.
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (4) Dec 18, 2013
Has it occurred to anybody else that kimberlite's morphology and its association with diamonds looks suspiciously like the remnants of a former high-density electrical discharge? The notion should inspire some interest amongst diamond seekers in learning about such theories, free of the preconceived notions which typically prevail online ...

See http://www.thunde...lite.htm


Yes. Absolutely. The same high intensity electrical discharge that emanates from a unicorns eyes.
ScooterG
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 18, 2013
Great now we can extend the slavery and cruelty of the diamond trade to Antarctica. We already have more diamonds than we need. The prices are kept artificially high by a cartel. Keep Antarctica free and preserved!


you are grossly ignorant to reality. enjoy hollywood


LOL...Hollywood and their "blood diamonds" - the same stupid hypocritical bastards that jet around preaching AGW all the while gettin' high on "blood drugs" coming in from Mexico.
foolspoo
1 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2013
scooter, my drugs are farmed down the street from my michigan home!
ScooterG
1 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2013
scooter, my drugs are farmed down the street from my michigan home!


Hey, ain't that great! Maybe you'll get a prison sentence for Christmas.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (3) Dec 19, 2013
Has it occurred to anybody else that kimberlite's morphology and its association with diamonds looks suspiciously like the remnants of a former high-density electrical discharge? The notion should inspire some interest amongst diamond seekers in learning about such theories, free of the preconceived notions which typically prevail online ...

See http://www.thunde...lite.htm

I wonder what the odds are that the kimberlite pipe would be so remarkably centered in that "impact" crater?
Maggnus
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 20, 2013
Oh, about the same odds as it not being centered, give or take. Funny how the kimberlite formation is thrust upwards from below.

EU proponents, at the least one has to admire their tenacious grip on fantasy! Or is it their tenuous grip on reality?
Sinister1812
5 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2013
Great, we can send the women to Antarctica now. ;)
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2013
Oh, about the same odds as it not being centered, give or take. Funny how the kimberlite formation is thrust upwards from below.

EU proponents, at the least one has to admire their tenacious grip on fantasy! Or is it their tenuous grip on reality?

Yes, but that in no way explains anything to do with impact hypotheses. Only in your own fantasy world is this process explained by some sort of rebound or something(?). EUT can explain the kimberlite pipe AND crater as being part of the same process, ergo the centered pipe in crater. You however, prefer a chance cosmic bullseye. There is at least one other crater associated with diamonds;
http://phys.org/n...ond.html

Electric discharge provides a coherent explanation for both.

Maggnus
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 24, 2013
Yes, but that in no way explains anything to do with impact hypotheses.
That's because it's not impact related. Where DO you come up with this stuff?
EUT can explain...blahblah

EUT can explain nothing. Well except Santa. Might explain that.
foolspoo
not rated yet Jan 17, 2014
scooter, my drugs are farmed down the street from my michigan home!


Hey, ain't that great! Maybe you'll get a prison sentence for Christmas.


Why? Because mine aren't taxed and controlled by the most criminal mafia this world has never known?
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Jan 17, 2014
What "impact" crater?!?
Maggnus
1 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2014
@ gyre - there isn't one. candrive's pet theory suggests that kimberlite tubes may be a sign of giant electrical discharge. It's nonsense, but if you're interested in more about it check out this site: http://forums.can...sis.html

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