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Super hard Asteroid-Diamonds: Russia’s New Goldmine and World’s Largest Declassified

September 21, 2012 (TSR) – A deposit of super-hard diamonds located in an asteroid crater between Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Republic of Yakutia in Russia’s Eastern Siberian region has finally been declassified.

The deposit, knowns as the Popigai Astroblem, was discovered in the 1970s, but Soviet scientists decided to keep the find secret since, according to geologist Alexander Portnov, they did not know the best way to make use of the diamonds. Typically naturally occurring diamonds are not suitable for industrial use because of their unpredictable and non-standard characteristics. Today, however, experts agree that the unique properties of these diamonds make them suitable for use in high-tech optics and electronics.

‘Trillions of carats’ lie below a 35-million-year-old, 62-mile-diameter asteroid crater in eastern Siberia known as Popigai Astroblem. The Russians have known about the site since the 1970s. Russia has just declassified news that will shake world gem markets to their core: the discovery of a vast new diamond field containing “trillions of carats,” enough to supply global markets for another 3,000 years. This could alter the market for industrial diamonds, presumably by making them more plentiful and lower cost. Many of the diamonds at Popigai contain crystalline lonsdaleite, an allotrope of carbon that has a hexagonal lattice. These stones are 58% harder than ordinary diamonds if pure.

“Research into impact diamonds had been classified for a very long time, because the reserves are immense, but [Soviet] scientists did not believe they could be used in industry. The very possibility of their application in the manufacturing sector is a sensation,” said Portnov.

Industrial use of diamonds is very high, amounting to approximately 5 billion carats, but most of these diamonds are produced artificially, said Sergei Goryainov, an observer at the Rough&Polished diamond information and analysis agency.

An aerial view of the 35-mile-wide Popigai Astroblem crater in eastern Siberia which contains ‘trillions of carats of diamonds’ (Photo: Daily Mail)

 

The Popigai crater, 100km-wide and located in the isolated north of the country, was formed roughly 35.7 million years ago by the impact of an asteroid estimated to be between five and eight kilometres wide. Its collision created a wealth of impact diamonds — which form when an existing diamond seam is hit by a large falling body — in such quantities that could, it is claimed, supply the world diamond market for the next 3,000 years. The Popigai crater is the world’s fourth-largest asteroid impact crater known so far, after the Chicxulub, Sudbury and Vredefort craters. Russia is tied with Manicouagan Crater as the seventh largest verified impact crater on Earth. The impactor in this event has been identified as either an 8 km (5.0 mi) diameter chondrite asteroid, or a 5 km (3.1 mi) diameter stony asteroid. The Soviet government reportedly discovered the deposits in the 1970s on a scientific expedition, but decided to keep the information secret so as not to disturb world markets and lower the value of their already-profitable Mirny mine further east, which at its height was producing ten million carats of diamonds per year.

“Industrial diamonds have multiple applications, but the thing is that successful crystal synthesis experiments resulted in appearance of numerous synthetic diamonds with tailor-made properties. When you extract natural diamonds, you can never be sure about the exact properties. The share of natural diamonds on the market for industrial crystals has been shrinking for a long time now, and is currently quite insignificant,” Goryainov said.

A deposit of super-hard diamonds located in an asteroid crater between Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Republic of Yakutia in Russia’s Eastern Siberian region has finally been declassified. The deposit, knowns as the Popigai Astroblem, was discovered in the 1970s, but Soviet scientists decided to keep the find secret since, according to geologist Alexander Portnov, they did not know the best way to make use of the diamonds. Typically naturally occurring diamonds are not suitable for industrial use because of their unpredictable and non-standard characteristics. Today, however, experts agree that the unique properties of these diamonds make them suitable for use in high-tech optics and electronics.

Despite the overall industry preference for synthetic diamonds, a few big corporations have expressed an interest in the rediscovered deposit, said Nikolai Pokhilenko, director of the Novosibirsk Institute of Geology and Mineralogy.

“They have peculiar properties. They are harder, much harder than the ordinary diamonds we all know. They can revolutionize the tool-making industry, drilling, processing of solid substances, because it is the hardest natural material known to us. They can be applied in high-tech industries: electronics, optics, production of high-precision lenses. We see excellent prospects and some big corporations, such as De Beers and some Chinese companies, have already shown an interest,” Pokhilenko said.

Scientists believe that the declassified Popigai Astroblem has enough diamond reserves to meet for the entire world’s demand for the next 3,000 years.

Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines

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