Russia Lifts Veil on Secret Diamond Field

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 18 2012 3:39 PM

Russia Has Apparently Been Hiding a Diamond-Filled Asteroid Crater For the Past 30 Years

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Vladimir Putin meets with workers at a diamond mine in the Siberian city of Mirny in August 2009.

File photo by Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images.

Less than a week after admitting that some of his most (in)famous stunts were staged, Vladimir Putin is right back in the swing of acting like a real-life Bond villain.

According to the latest news out of Moscow, Russia is in control of a previously-secret diamond field that allegedly contains trillions of carats worth of reserves. That number is ten times greater than worldwide reserves, and if accurate, could potentially supply the global market for upwards of 3,000 years.

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The Christian Science Monitor with the details:

"The Soviets discovered the bonanza back in the 1970s beneath a 35-million-year-old, 62-mile diameter asteroid crater in eastern Siberia known as Popigai Astroblem. They decided to keep it secret, and not to exploit it, apparently because the USSR's huge diamond operations at Mirny, in Yakutia, were already producing immense profits in what was then a tightly controlled world market. The Soviets were also producing a range of artificial diamonds for industry, into which they had invested heavily.
"The veil of secrecy was finally lifted over the weekend, and Moscow permitted scientists from the nearby Novosibirsk Institute of Geology and Mineralogy to talk about it with Russian journalists."

While there is little doubt that the diamond field exists, some have questioned the claim that the find will have a significant impact on the global market. Count Tim Worstall of Forbes among the doubters:

“I am a great deal less convinced that the find will be of any value: or that it will ever be mined.  For the value of any mineral deposit is not the value of the minerals in it. It’s the value of those minerals minus the cost of extracting them. With gemstone diamonds this doesn’t usually matter: the value is so high that almost any mining technique is profitable. But these aren’t gemstone diamonds.”

The diamonds in question are apparently "impact diamonds," which are better suited for technological purposes than for jewelry, so it remains unclear just how valuable the find is in reality. An expedition to further explore the field will commence soon, with Russia’s state-controlled mining company expected to be involved every step of the way.

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate video blogger.