Antarctica May Hold a Stash of Diamonds

Researchers suspect the gem is there, but mining is banned until 2041

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 19, 2013 12:26 AM CST | Updated Dec 19, 2013 7:04 AM CST

(Newser) – As a scramble for the Arctic's resources looms, scientists have spotted evidence of mineral riches at the planet's southern pole. An Australian-led team discovered rocks signaling large diamond deposits on the icy slopes of Mount Meredith, which is located in East Antarctica, the BBC reports. (They didn't actually find diamonds, but kimberlites, which is a type of rock that typically contains them.) Demand for diamonds is expected to outstrip supply in the coming years, and other researchers have found signs of gold, copper, iron, and platinum in the frozen continent.

But would-be prospectors can put away their parkas for now: The 1991 Antarctic Treaty bans mining in Antarctica until at least 2041, preserving the continent for wildlife and scientific research. Only 50 countries, however, have signed the treaty, and it's not clear what will happen when the ban comes up for review. "We do not know what the Treaty parties' views will be on mining after 2041 or what technologies might exist that could make extraction of Antarctic minerals economically viable," a spokesman for the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research tells Reuters. (Another place that may have a kind of diamonds: Jupiter.)

Pickaxes at the ready...
Pickaxes at the ready...   (AP Photo/National Snow and Ice Data Center, Atsuhiro Muto)
Sir Ernest Shackleton's base camp is pictured in Antarctica.
Sir Ernest Shackleton's base camp is pictured in Antarctica.   (AP Photo/Antarctic Heritage Trust, File)
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