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This Russian diamond mine that could upset the world market

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This Russian diamond mine that could upset the world market



Cold War forces, the deposit was immediately considered a "strategic reserve" of the USSR and its existence shrouded in secrecy.

REUTERS / Baz Ratner



A diamond mine located in Siberia, whose existence was kept secret for decades, has huge reserves that could cause "an industrial revolution" in the world, say experts.

The deposit was discovered in Popigai early 1970 in an uninhabited area of ‚Äč‚Äčeastern Siberia, 400 km from the first resort Khantiga and 2,000 km north of Krasnoyarsk, the capital of the region. Cold War forces, the deposit was immediately considered a "strategic reserve" of the USSR and its existence shrouded in secrecy.

Fall of an asteroid there 35 million years

The Institute of Geology and Minerals Sobolev in Novosibirsk (Siberia) this week released a few information about this mine in a crater with a diameter of one hundred kilometers formed by an asteroid there are 35 millions of years.

The shock waves from the impact had instantly turned graphite Siberian soil tiny diamonds within a radius of ten kilometers around the base. These "industrial" diamonds, which generally have a diameter of 0.5 to 2 millimeters, are in the form of gray, blue or yellow seeds like dust, told AFP Pokhilenko Nikolai, director of the Institute Sobolev.

Multiplied by 110 global diamond reserves

Reserves carat diamond type Popigai, widely used for drilling tools and aeronautical parts, are 110 times higher than the global reserves of diamonds, experts say the institute. In addition, Popigai diamonds are twice as strong as traditional industrial diamonds says Pokhilenko.

Soviet experts knew that diamond Popigai were much stronger than factory-made diamonds, but at the time, the USSR "preferred to construct synthetic diamond factories and the mine was left in the state," said Mr. Pokhilenko.

The deposit Popigai was therefore abandoned and forgotten for nearly 30 years until in 2009, Sobolev Institute decided to be interested again. In the economic and ideological chaos that followed the breakup of the USSR in late 1991, the announcement of the existence of the mine went almost unnoticed. To date, the "0.3% of the crater explored already give 147 billion carats, while world diamond reserves are estimated at 5 billion carats," the director of the Sobolev Institute.

"3,000 years of supply"

"At the current rate of use of industrial diamond reserves Popigai correspond to 3,000 years of supply" and could lead to "an industrial revolution in the world", especially in the construction of airplanes and automobiles, says the scientist. "The crater Popigai can upset the situation in the diamond market. And it is impossible to say what would happen to the price," worries Gennady Nikitin, deputy director of Iakoutnipromalmaz, a company of Yakutia (Eastern Siberia) specializing in the diamond industry.

But the exploration of reserves Popigai could prove too expensive, experts say, the deposit is located in a permafrost area, far from any road or railway track. "The field is very remote, located about 200 kilometers from the Arctic coast and more than 400 kilometers from the nearest town," notes Nikolai Touchkoff, expert at the Sobolev Institute. Exploring the Popigai mine could be associated to other nearby mineral deposits, which would reduce costs, he noted however.

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