Are there diamonds in Antarctica? It’s possible, scientists say
2013-12-18 0:00

By John Platt | Mother Nature Network

For now, though, only the penguins can enjoy the rocks: mining is illegal in Antarctica.

Talk about ice – scientists say that frozen Antarctica could also be home to untapped, previously undiscovered diamond deposits. No, they haven’t actually found the precious carbon crystals yet, but they have found something that indicates they may be there.

The news comes to us via research published this week in the journal Nature Communications, which details how authors from several Australian and German universities have uncovered kimberlites in Antarctica’s Prince Charles Mountains. Kimberlites are volcanic rocks that are most famous for often containing diamonds. Volcanic eruptions push kimberlite up from the Earth’s mantle into the crust, forming "pipes" which are often indicators of the presence of diamonds. (Kimberlites are named after the South African town of Kimberly, where an infamous diamond rush was kicked off by the discovery of a massive diamond in 1871.)

Although kimberlites have been found on all other continents, this is the first kimberlite discovery in Antarctica. As for what might be found next, "It would be very surprising if there weren’t diamonds in these kimberlites," lead researcher Greg Yaxley from Australian National University told Reuters. Yaxley also told the Financial Times that the discovery wasn’t much of a surprise and that his team was "lucky enough to be the first ones to find one."

The particular rocks unearthed in Antarctica are called Group One kimberlites, making them similar to those found in other diamond-heavy areas, and are estimated to be many millions of years old. "The fact they are reporting Group One kimberlites is an important one as diamonds are more likely to be found in this style of kimberlite eruption," Teal Riley, a survey geologist with the British Antarctic Survey who was not affiliated with the study, told the BBC.


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