Get ready folks, the South Pole may soon be real popular.
A kind of rock that often contains diamonds has been found in Antarctica for the first time, hinting at mineral riches in the vast, icy continent where mining is banned.
No diamonds were found, but researchers said they were confident the gems were there.
“It would be very surprising if there weren’t diamonds in these kimberlites,” Greg Yaxley of the Australian National University in Canberra, who led the research, said in a telephone interview.
Writing in the journal Nature Communications, an Australian-led team reported finding the kimberlite deposits around Mount Meredith, in the Prince Charles Mountains in East Antarctica. Kimberlite is a rare rock where diamonds are often found; it is named after the South African town of Kimberley, the site of a late 19th-century diamond rush.
That does not mean Antarctica will soon see its own diamond rush. Antarctica is not only forbiddingly cold and remote but also protected by a treaty that preserves the continent for scientific research and wildlife, from penguins to seals. The 1991 environmental accord banned mining for at least 50 years.
“I don’t think it’s terribly practical that anyone could actually explore successfully and, personally, I hope that mining does not take place,” Yaxley said.
Others geologists doubted the find held much commercial value. Less than 10 percent of the deposits of similar kimberlite are economically viable, said Teal Riley of the British Antarctic Survey. “It’s a big leap from here to mining,” he told Reuters.
It’s cute when scientists think treaties and promises will keep people from traipsing all over Antarctica looking for diamonds. They may be right and it isn’t feasible. They may also be intentionally dampening expectations. The mining companies will have their say, rest assured.