December 18, 2013
With climate change impacting the poles, the potential for trade routes and resource extraction are improving… and with that the world’s powers are rattling sabres over who owns what. From Canada’s claims to Russia’s defense forces and China’s purposeful dependence-building aid to small Arctic states, everyone knows the stakes. So, with very few big new diamond mines having been developed in recent years, the FT reports that scientists have found a site containing the rocks that often produce diamonds – in Antarctica. The problem is that the frozen continent is protected from mining for decades under an international treaty.
Some color on the climate change impact on arctic resource extraction…
In a frustrating discovery, scientists have found a site containing the rocks that often produce diamonds – in Antarctica. The problem is that the frozen continent is protected from mining for decades under an international treaty. Even if it were not, the prospect of drilling through layers of ice in a harsh climate is likely to deter many would-be miners.
Still, the discovery is scientifically significant…
“It’s the first kimberlite occurrence reported in Antarctica,” he said, referring to the carrot-shaped volcanic rock formations that have been found on other continents and have been a significant source of diamonds in places such as South Africa.
“It’s really not very surprising there are kimberlites there. We were lucky enough to be the first ones to find one.”
“You could see some mining companies might argue, ‘We can do this; we don’t have to waste this resource’,” said Dr Robert Larter of the British Antarctic Survey.
However, the physical obstacles are immense in a continent that is 99 per cent covered in ice, some of which is 3-4km thick, he said.
Very few big new diamond mines have been developed in recent years, leading to expectations of a squeeze in supply by the end of the decade. At present levels of output, existing reserves will sustain global diamond production for 18 years,according to research by Bain & Co this year. About 70 per cent of the world’s 2.3bn carats of diamond reserves are in Russia and Africa.
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