August 27, 2004
Diamond Exploration and Mining in North America Heating Up
Could Wyoming be the next diamond-producing area in North America? Six years ago no one thought that Canada would be producing 15% of the world's diamonds, but today it is a multi-billion dollar industry boosting Canada's economy. According to W. Dan Hausel, Senior Economic Geologist at the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS), the possibilities for Wyoming are good. Wyoming is underlain by the same kind of rocks found in Canada, and the entire state has high potential for the discovery of commercial diamond deposits. Some companies are starting to recognize these similarities, and over the past month, several companies and consultants have contacted the WSGS for information on potential diamond deposits.
Canada is now one of the world's leading producers of gem-quality diamonds, surpassing South Africa's production last spring. Diamond exploration in Canada is now paying huge dividends. Currently, diamonds are recovered from just two mines in the Northwest Territories. Diamond exploration has led to the discovery of 500 kimberlites (one of the principal host rocks for diamond) and proposals for four additional diamond mines before the end of the decade.
Canadian diamond production in 2003 amounted to 11.2 million carats, resulting in an industry worth $1.7 billion per year and providing hundreds of new jobs. The value of raw diamond production is dramatically increased as the rough stones are faceted by Canadian gem cutters and mounted in jewelry that is sold for more than 10 times the raw value. In other words, the Canadian economy has taken a major, multi-billion dollar boost due to mining and added hundreds of new jobs.
Why does Hausel believe Wyoming is a good target for diamond exploration? Forty diamond deposits are found in the State Line district south of Laramie, one diamond pipe occurs at Iron Mountain northwest of Cheyenne, and another diamond-bearing rock is found at Cedar Mountain in southwestern Wyoming. There have been 130,000 diamonds recovered from the State Line district including gems weighing more than 28 carats. Diamonds have also been found or reported from a number of other Wyoming localities. According to Hausel, Wyoming has an incredible number of kimberlitic indicator mineral anomalies, indicating that there could easily be hundreds of hidden deposits waiting to be found. These anomalies consist of rare minerals that are eroded from nearby diamond pipes or dikes.
Over the past 20 years, the WSGS has identified more than 300 kimberlitic indicator mineral anomalies in southeastern Wyoming alone. Finally, Wyoming contains large areas of kimberlite and lamproite, the only two rock types mined for diamond. Hausel has already mapped the two largest kimberlite districts in the U.S., and the largest lamproite field in North America.
from the Office of the Wyoming State Geologist
Ron Surdam, State Geologist