Is Humankind Running Out of Diamonds?

Natural resources aren’t everlasting, they run down quite fast. Realizing that scientists are considering on ways of alternative source of mineral deposits even if they are far beyond our planet.

The mineral we are to pay more attention is diamonds. It’s hard to imagine our everyday life without them: diamond shine on a ring finger as well as on the drill with the help of which you can make a hole in the wall to hang a shelf. Implementation areas of diamonds are numerous! So the idea of running out of this solid rock is quite upsetting. In the article below you can find more proves and numbers speaking for diamond’s limited resources as well as the alternative methods of getting diamonds:

Diamonds are so hard to find that explorers have pretty much given up trying.

More than $7 billion has been plowed into the hunt for the gem since 2000, according to top supplier De Beers, and the results have been meager, with no major finds. That’s led producers including BHP Billiton to pack up their maps and drills and head for home. The amount spent looking for diamond-rich kimberlite formations underground has dropped by half since 2007, when exploration investment topped $1 billion.

The dearth of new projects is putting pressure on an industry where supplies of accessible diamonds near the surface are depleted and the cost of going deeper is rising. De Beers opened the Orapa mine in Botswana in 1971 and its Jwaneng project, the world’s largest diamond mine by production value, in 1982. Botswana, the top producer, saw output drop to 22.7 million carats last year from 33.6 million carats in 2007.

“The odds of finding an economic kimberlite are extremely against you,” said Johan Dippenaar, chief executive officer of Petra Diamonds, which spent just $2.1 million looking for new mines last year and has abandoned prospective projects in Angola and Sierra Leone. “Exploration, for the foreseeable future, will remain something that we will be involved in, but it won’t command very much of our cash flows.”

Investment and mine activity are retreating as demand for the gem increases, with burgeoning middle classes in China and India seek to join the developed world’s love affair with the precious stones. The two countries accounted for about 20 percent of purchases in 2011, and that share will rise to 28 percent in 2016 as the market grows to $31 billion from $23 billion, according to De Beers owner Anglo American.

Diamonds are formed hundreds of kilometers beneath the crust in the molten rock of the earth’s mantle. Violent explosions force the precious gems toward the surface, where they come to rest in carrot-shaped pipes known as kimberlites. Yet finding a kimberlite is no guarantee of finding diamonds. Of the more than 6,000 pipes that have been tested over the last 140 years, only 60 have been worthwhile mining, according to De Beers. A mere seven have been super deposits, capable of moving the supply needle.

To make matters harder for those still in the hunt, diamonds have been hidden in some of the world’s least-hospitable places. With South Africa and Botswana almost fully explored, the frontiers for exploration are the frozen Arctic of northern Russia and Canada or the war-torn jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Rough-diamond prices have climbed 75 percent in the past five years as the U.S. recovered from the financial crisis and demand increased in Asia, according to data compiled by WWW International Diamond Consultants.

Intact kimberlites aren’t the only source of supply. About 10 percent to 15 percent of the world’s diamonds are from alluvial mining, where the stones are found in riverbeds or shorelines, after kimberlites have been eroded over time.

While alluvial gems are easier to mine, geologists often can’t tell how many stones there are, a key piece of information used to determine whether the reserves will last long enough to justify an investment. Production at the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe, where about 17 million carats were mined last year, is forecast to be declining after only about five years of official extracting.

While below-ground supplies are diminishing, there may be other sources for the gems. In August, De Beers began a study to determined how many existing diamonds are being resold. While no exact data is available for how much of the diamond market is recycled gems, Tacy Ltd. has previously estimated it at $1 billion a year.

There is also the prospect of synthetic, or man-made, diamonds becoming more widely used in jewelry. While they are easily made and can only be distinguished from natural stones using specialized machines, synthetics have yet to gain a strong foothold given the weight of marketing and promotion behind mined diamonds.

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