Antarctic’s New Ice: Diamonds
Antarctica is generally known for its massive ice covering and ice flows, but researchers have just discovered that it may contain a new type of ice, Diamonds. The controversial discovery was made on Tuesday and published in a scientific journal Nature Communications.
Australian geologists made a discovery of a rare rock known as kimberlite in the Prince Charles Mountains in the eastern part of Antarctica. Kimberlite is a rock that almost always signifies the presence that diamonds are near or could possibly be present.
Kimberlite is also present in the Canadian Arctic, where some of the world’s best diamonds are currently being prospected and mined. The mineral, kimberlite, gets its name from a south African town, Kimberley, that was made famous in the African diamond rush back in the late 19th century.
The find of kimberlite is the first known occurrence in the Antarctic. The volcanic rock has now been found on all continents around the globe. Despite this fact, kimberlite is still considered a very rare mineral. Kimberlite is believed to have been formed in the Earth’s mantle at very great depths from the surface. In the mantle, carbon atoms are squeezed under incredible pressure at extreme high temperatures into lattice shapes that eventually form into diamonds.
Geologists estimate that the kimberlite was pushed upwards towards Earth’s surface around 120 million years ago. This upward thrust was thought to be caused when all continents were still attached together. In Earth’s very early history; Africa, the Indian sub-continent, Australia, South America, Arabian peninsula and Antarctica were all joined into one big super-size continent known as Gondwana.
The Antarctic samples were taken from Mount Meredith when the geologists discovered the presence of the kimberlite. Although they did not find any diamonds in the samples that were taken, it does not mean that diamonds could not be present at deeper depths.
Environmentalists need not worry about big corporations moving in to destroy the Antarctic’s sensitive landscape, as the continent is preserved for scientific research and wildlife. The protection of the Antarctic is covered in a 1991 environmental accord that bans any mining for at least 50 years. It is expected that in year 2041 the ban on mining in Antarctica will be extended even further, but some scientists have their doubts. The Antarctic Treaty is bound by the signatures of only 50 countries, but it does currently hold some serious clout as it is backed by some major powers such as China and the U.S.
The geologists have doubts that the diamonds could ever be mined due to the harsh temperatures, remoteness of the location, and the long periods of darkness experienced during the winter months. The British Antarctic Survey member, Teal Riley, says that less than 10 percent of the kimberlite deposits found are economically viable to be mined.
The new possibility of finding diamonds in the Antarctic is not the only precious resource the icy continent has to offer. Previously coal, iron, copper, gold and platinum have all been found there by geologists.
By Brent Matsalla