Thursday, November 13, 2014

Diamonds are a Geologist's Best Friend

Rough diamonds including several fancy diamonds from the Argyle diamond mine,
Australia. Photo "Copyright © 2014 Rio Tinto."
Geological evidence supports that the Wyoming Craton could host a major diamond province. The Wyoming Craton is part of the Canadian Shield (North American Craton) where many rich diamond deposits sat in the back yard of Canada until two individuals began to diligently search for diamonds in 1985. This led to the discovery of the rich Ekati diamond deposits and Canada's first diamond mine in 1998. The discovery was followed by several more discoveries, which continue to this day (one of the more recent projects is at Baffin Island). But if it wasn't for those two prospectors: Chuck Fipke and Steward Blussom, geologists around the world would still be wondering where all those diamonds accidentally found in glacial till over the past century. came from. So, why didn't anyone search?

Yes, and the same goes for Colorado, Kansas, Montana and Wyoming - sure, people have looked in the Wyoming Craton for diamonds, but not like Canada. After working on this and other gold and gemstone projects for 3 decades, the amount of funding spent by the Wyoming Geological Survey and University of Wyoming would be spare change compared to the amount of exploration dollars spent in Canada, just to find a single kimberlite! The State of Wyoming (including Federal grants), may have spent a total of $100K over 30 years. And for much of that time, the research was part time and typically included a staff of me (the GemHunter), with a couple of years that included a small number of Colorado State University and University of Wyoming students hired with funds from Federal grants.

So, in Wyoming, possibly 25 people were paid to do some research on diamond deposits at the Wyoming Geological Survey. In Canada, we can only guess at the number of people employed by the diamond industry - likely in the thousands. It's like comparing a nickel to $billions of dollars.

The amount of money spent in Wyoming migh be equivalent of the amount paid on snow removal for a drill rig site in Canada. And note, I was told by a geologist and former member of the Wyoming Geological Survey advisory board (who by the way, resigned in protest of the poor treatment of employees at the Wyoming Geological Survey by their director and governor), that Canadians were spending on average of $1 million per kimberlite discovery - this was only for discovery of a single kimberlite pipe, sill or dike, and did not include additional $millions spent to test newly discovered pipes for diamonds!

Even so, we must congratulate the Wyoming Geological Survey for providing mountains of information in books and publications on this diamond and gemstone province, and number of discoveries made with such a tiny budget. Now add it all of the expenditures from past diamond mining companies spent to explore for diamonds in the Wyoming province including drilling, bulk sampling, mill construction and mining. Now, the exploration expenditures likely reach as much as $10 million - but again, is nothing compared to Canada, where capitalization for the Ekati mine was more than $1.3 billion (and that doesn't include the $billions of additional dollars spent to find hundreds of other diamond deposits and develop other mines). And the great majority of the Wyoming Province exploration money was been spent in Colorado by various diamond companies - not Wyoming.

Diamonds were found in a group of kimberlites along the edge of the Wyoming Craton in 1975 in both Colorado and Wyoming. Several detrital diamonds were found in the Wyoming Province in Montana in the past and more recently diamonds were recovered in a kimberlite in that region. Additionally, kimberlites, lamproites and lamprophyres were found all over the Wyoming Province but these remain a scientific curiosity. Over the next three decades, Wyoming spent essentially nothing compared to the $billions that have been spent in Canada exploring and developing diamond deposits. Yet, hundreds of cryptovolcanic structures of unknown origin remained unexplored and have yet to be drilled in the Wyoming Province. Is the Wyoming Province also a major diamond province? After many years of talking to hundreds of geologists and prospectors about the kimberlites and potential placer diamond deposits, one prospector finally panned one of the many locations suggested by the author and reportedly found a cache of diamonds including one, flawless, 5-carat diamond verified by the University of North Carolina.

So, diamonds have been found in kimberlite in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming and possibly in Kansas. So, why don't the state legislators create legislation that will attract companies to search for diamonds in their states?
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Cryptovolcanic structure near Douglas Creek in the Medicine Bow Mountains
of Wyoming. This has been suggested to be an impact structure, but it
is more likely to be a kimberlite pipe.
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Another cryptovolcanic structure of unknown origin - kimberlite? 

Two excellent quality diamonds found by prospector Paul Boden in 1977.
These were recovered with gold in a long tom build on Cortez Creek in the
Medicine Bow Mountains not far from the above cryptovolcanic structures

General map showing diamond mines and diamond anomalies in North America. It should be apparent there is
considerable potential. Much of the high potential for commercial diamond deposits are areas known as cratons (from
Hausel, 2007, 2008).

View of the Wyoming craton showing locations of kimberlites
and related anomalies.
The State Line diamond district. More than 130,000 diamonds were found in this area in or adjacent to kimberlites. The
diamonds ranged from microdiamonds to a 28.3 carat diamond. One diamond fragment from Kelsey Lake was thought
to have broken from an 80 to 90 carat diamond. Placer diamonds were recovered from Fish Creek along the northern
edge of Kelsey Lake (included one diamond that weighed 6.2 carats) and other placer diamonds were found in
Rabbit Creek next to the Sloan 1 and 2 kimberlites, and many placer diamonds were recovered from George Creek. It is
likely that hundreds of thousands of diamonds occur in the nearby streams.

Cryptovolcanic structure in Colorado. Even though there is some snow in the
shade, the white material forming a bull's eye around the depression is all
calcium carbonate. The depression and surrounding hills are all formed of
granite with no known carbonate.

Another cryptovolcanic structure (circular depression) filled with water and surrounded by calcium-carbonate rich soil.
The depression sits on granite in Colorado. So, is this a kimberlite, an impact depression, or just a lake?