Finding diamonds may have just gotten easy peasy. The very sought after rock is one of the most expensive gems in the planet, recognised not only as a sign of power and wealth, but also as an extremely useful material, due to its outstanding hardness.
But what also makes it a costly product is its elusiveness. Not only are they rare, they are also extremely hard to find. Usually, miners in Africa, where the largest diamond deposits are found, have no indication of where diamonds may actually be found, so they resort to mining at random. But imagine if there was a way to know where to find diamonds, like an indicator. Well, imagine no more. Scientist Stephen Haggerty has been studying the areas in Libya where diamond miners usually work, and has found an interesting pattern: within the dense forest full of trees and bushes, a specific plant species called Pandanus candelabrum seems to grow only near kimberlite deposits.
Kimberlite, for those who don’t know, is the mineral ore from which diamonds are extracted. It is formed in the depths of the Earth, in a layer called the mantle where the temperature and the pressure are so immensely high that there is enough force to compress carbon into diamond. Then, thanks to eruptions of underground volcanic activity, whole veins of kimberlite and the diamonds they contain move upwards, into the Earth’s crust, where they can be mined.
The reason this type of plant only grows in such areas is clear: kimberlite provides the soil around it (and by extension, the plants living in it) minerals like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, making the area especially fertile and a perfect environment for Pandanus candelabrum to grow and reproduce there.
However, it must be noted that although this plant is a reliable sign of kimberlite, it is not necessarily an indicator of diamonds. Only about 10% of the kimberlite pipes in the whole world actually contain diamonds, and only 10% of these contain enough diamonds to generate any profit. It still has a lot of potential though, as it at least gives miners a heads up on where to start mining and doesn’t leave it all to chance.