Massive Siberian source of diamonds formed by an asteroid 35 million years ago can 'overturn entire world gem market'.
Popigai crater on the map of Russia
The 'impact diamonds' have been 'classified' since the Stalin era, but Russia is now actively researching how to exploit the 'trillions and trillions of carats', a scientific conference in Novosibirsk was told at the weekend.
Soviet geologists established the exceptional quality of the diamonds in the 1970s but the source was classified because the USSR was involved in the production of synthetic diamonds, it is understood.
Nicknamed 'Siberian extraterrestrial diamonds', the statement on declassification - which emerged from Novosibirsk scientists from the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences - was hailed as 'sensational' by Itar-Tass news agency.
'The first results of research were sufficient to talk about a possible overturn of the entire world market of diamonds', said Academician Nikolai Pokhilenko.
'The resources of super-hard diamonds contained in rocks of the Popigai crypto-explosion structure are - by a factor of ten - bigger than the world's all known reserves. We are speaking about many trillions of carats. For comparison, present-day known reserves in Yakutia are estimated at one billion carats.'
Yakutia holds Russia's main diamond supplies.
Popigai crater, space image
Pokhilenko stressed: 'There will be an expedition in 2013 to the crater. In order to evaluate diamond mining profitability, we must carry out mineralogical, technical and economic research.
'There is no infrastructure in place to mine the diamonds.' But optimism is high on the potential industrial uses of the diamonds.
Deputy Director of the Yakutnipromalmaz Institute Gennady Nikitin warned: 'The Popigai diamonds can overturn everything, and is not clear what will happen to prices in the market.'
The diamonds are twice as hard as traditional diamonds, and have a different structure, and were instantly created by the impact of the meteorite on Siberia, making the world's fourth largest crater.
The value of the diamonds is less for tiaras than industrial uses such as metalworking, production of efficient semiconductors, space technologies and eco-clean engines.
'Impact diamonds with similar specifications have not been discovered anywhere else in the world,' stated the news agency.
'Thus, experts speak about their extraterrestrial origin and claim that Russia becomes a monopoly owner of unlimited supplies of this unique raw material, which is of highly demand in advanced technologies.
'Scientists forecast these raw material reserves 'would be enough for the entire world for 3.000 years. Use of these minerals in the manufacturing industry is capable of a technical revolution. The development was disclosed during a 'New Economy, New Materials' roundtable in Novosibirsk, Siberia's largest city, which is often dubbed Russia's scientific capital.
Nikolai Pokhilenko announcing the news at Interra conference in Novosibirsk, Western Siberia. Picture: SBRAS PR centre
The 100 km diameter crater borders the Krasnoyarsk region and Yakutia, also known as the Sakha Republic.
The crater is located above the Arctic Circle northeast of the most northern Russian city of Norilsk. The nearest stepping off point is the outpost of Khatanga from where it is accessible by helicopter.
The Popigai crater is an icon to paleontologists and geologists. But for decades the region was 'off limits' due to diamond mines constructed by Stalin's gulag prisoners. Designated a Geopark by UNESCO, it was created by either an 8 km (5.0 mile) diameter chondrite asteroid, or a 5 km (3.1 mile) diameter stony asteroid, say experts.
Graphite in the ground was instantly transformed into diamonds over a vast territory. Several scientific expeditions to the crater in the 1990s furthered understanding of its origins and potential wealth. Originally, the crater was believed to be volcanic.
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