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expert reaction to potential presence of diamonds in Antarctica

Nature Communications  published findings that diamonds may be present in the geology of the Antarctic.


Dr Robert Larter, a British Antarctic Survey geophysicist, said:

“It is important to note that the article does not report discovery of a commercially-viable deposit, or even actual diamonds. What it reports is the discovery of rocks of the type that often host diamonds.

“The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991), Article 7 states that ‘any activity relating to mineral resources, other than scientific research, shall be prohibited.’ Although there is provision for the operation of the protocol to be reviewed 50 years after it came into force, the default assumption is that it 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.”


Dr Teal Riley, a survey geologist at British Antarctic Survey, said:

“These are very interesting results, but not unsurprising given the craton style of geology present in East Antarctica, which is akin to other areas of the world where diamond-bearing kimberlites are located (e.g. Africa, Canada, Australia). The fact they are reporting Group 1 kimberlites is an important one as diamonds are more likely to be found in this style of kimberlite eruption, however even amongst the Group 1 kimberlites only 10% or so are economically viable, so it’s still a big step to extrapolate this latest finding with any diamond mining activity in Antarctica.”


Dr Kevin Hughes, Deputy Chief Officer of the Standing Committee on the Antarctic Treaty System at the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), said:

“We do not know what the Treaty Parties’ views will be on mining after 2041 or what technologies might exist that could make extraction of Antarctic minerals economically viable.  An additional issue is that nations outside the Protocol are not bound by its provisions, including the ban on mineral resource activities.”


‘The discovery of kimberlites in Antarctica extends the vast Gondwanan Cretaceous province’ by Gregory Yaxley et al published in Nature Communications on Tuesday 17 December.

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