Aerial view of the Popigai crater
(IDEX Online News) – Russia revealed that it had trillions of carats of industrial diamonds in a deposit under a 35 million year old meteorite crater called the Popigai Astroblem that is a hundred kilometers wide.
The official Russian news agency ITAR-Tass said Russia discovered the deposit in the 1970s but kept it secret as it was working on developing synthetic diamond technology. It said the diamonds are twice as hard as the normal variety.
A spokesperson from Russian mining giant ALROSA told IDEX Online, "This mineral, impactite, cannot be used in jewelry, so the Popigai deposit cannot change the structure of gem diamond market or impact diamond prices. Otherwise, this mineral probably can be used for industrial purposes. In any case, this object needs further exploration, as well as research on impactite’s features.”
The report quoted scientists as saying the deposit was “enough to supply the world’s diamond needs for 3,000 years.”
The deposit consists of impact diamonds – the kind that are created when a high velocity object like a meteor slams into a graphite deposit. Impact diamonds are distinct from ‘space diamonds’ which are diamonds that had already been embedded in extraterrestrial objects like meteors when they crashed into the earth.
ITAR-Tass quoted Nikolai Pokhilenko, Director of the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences as saying, "The first results of research were sufficient to talk about a possible overturn of the entire world market of diamonds.
The resources of super-hard diamonds contained in rocks of the Popigai crypto-explosion structure, are by a factor of ten bigger than the world's all known reserves. We are speaking about trillions of carats, for comparison – present-day known reserves in Yakutia are estimated at one billion carats," he said.
Pokhilenko went on to say, "The value of the impact diamonds is added by their unusual abrasive features and large grain size. This expands significantly the scope of their industrial use and makes them more valuable for industrial purposes – in metalworking, in the production of efficient semiconductors, etc."
The reported indicated that the Popigai site is unique and would thus lead to Russia having a monopoly in a material that would be much in demand for high-tech industry.
The Popigai crater has fascinated paleontologists and geologists for a long time but remained an enigma as Russian authorities allowed no access to it. It was only after an expedition was allowed in 1997 that scientists got a clearer understanding of the structure.
The meteor that struck the earth there is estimated to have been either a chondrite asteroid that was 8 km wide or a stony asteroid with a 5 km diameter.
The shock of the impact instantly transformed graphite in the ground into diamonds within a radius of 13.6 km of the impact point. Most of these diamonds are between 0.5- and 2 mm in diameter, though a few exceptional specimens are 10 mm. The diamonds inherit the tabular shape and striations of the original graphite grains.