Diamonds in Antarctica


Antarctica is known for its hostile but beautiful conditions, where cold and isolation coexist with the beauty of snow, ice and silence. It has been like this for many years, and most people want it to stay like this. But new discoveries seem to threaten this peace.

Scientists studying the composition of Antarctica have found traces of kimberlite, a rock that usually contains diamonds, in the depths of the Antarctic land. This mineral is produced by the high temperatures and pressure in the Earth’s crust, and is pushed up into shallower areas where they are found and mined thanks to volcanic activities.

This finding would mean many companies would now want to travel there and start mining it, since diamonds can be very expensive and could bring great fortunes to them. However, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, set up in 1991, is prohibiting this. Now signed by many countries, it prevents any mining for any resource for any economical purpose. The only way someone can mine in Antarctica is if they have a scientific purpose to the action. Unfortunately, this treaty is only enforced until 2041, when a decision will have to be taken: whether or not to extend this treaty or not.

kimberlite

Kimberlite, the rock from which diamonds are usually extracted

At the moment, it seems highly probable that it will be extended. Antarctica is one of the last places on Earth that has remained mostly untouched by human activity. It is of great importance to the Earth’s atmosphere and climate and by extension to human lives. It contains enormous quantities of ice, which if they were to melt (either by climate change or by industry or population settling there), its effects would be disastrous, increasing sea levels and global temperature. Therefore, it seems logical sane people will want to keep the treaty going and therefore preventing a catastrophe.

Although the treaty is the main reasons no company is going to mine these diamonds, there are other factors that would prevent this, and may still do after 2041, where the future of the southern-most continent is unclear. As said before, the conditions there are very harsh and cold, and darkness can last very long there. So miners would have to be very equipped and could only work for a few hours a day. Also, this continent is very far away, so transport costs could get very high. Overall, and despite the value of diamonds, companies may not get enough money to make this venture profitable.

Scientists, exempt of the Treaty, may mine in the following months for kimberlite, to back up the discovery, and increase our knowledge of this faraway island.

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