Rock points to potential diamond haul in Antarctica

Updated 29 April 2014

Rock points to potential diamond haul in Antarctica

PARIS: Australian geologists on Tuesday opened up the tantalizing but controversial prospect that Antarctica could be rich in diamonds.
In a scientific paper published in the journal Nature Communications, a team said they had found a telltale rock called kimberlite in the Prince Charles Mountains in East Antarctica.
No diamonds were found in the samples, taken from Mount Meredith, and the study — focusing only on the region’s geology, not on mining possibilities — was not designed to quantify how many could be there.
But, it said, the mineral’s signature is identical to that in other locations in the world where diamonds have been found.
“The samples are texturally, mineralogically and geochemically typical of Group 1 kimberlites from more classical localities,” said the probe, led by Greg Yaxley at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Kimberlite, a rock that is rarely found near Earth’s surface, is believed to be formed at great depths in the mantle, where conditions are right for forming diamonds — carbon atoms that are squeezed into lattice shapes under extreme pressure and temperature.
The study suggested kimberlite was thrust toward the surface around 120 million years ago, when present-day Africa, the Arabian peninsula, South America, the Indian sub-continent, Australia and Antarctica were glommed together in a super-continent called Gondwana.
Outcrops of kimberlite studded the center of Gondwana at this time.
The component continents then drifted apart, which explains why diamonds have been found in such diverse and distant locations, from Brazil to southern Africa and India, according to this theory.
Independent experts were divided as to whether the discovery could unleash a diamond rush that would ravage the world’s last pristine continent.
A treaty protecting Antarctica was signed in 1961 and was updated with an environmental protocol in 1991 whose Article 7 expressly prohibits “any activity relating to mineral resources.”
The 1991 pact comes up for review in 2048, 50 years after it came into effect following ratification. It has been ratified by 35 nations.
Robert Larter, a geophysicist with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), said “the default assumption” was that the protocol will continue.
“Any change would require agreement of the majority of parties at a review conference, including three-quarters of the states which were Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties at the time of adoption of the protocol,” he said in comments to Britain’s Science Media Center.
Teal Riley, a BAS survey geologist, said the discovery of kimberlite was “not unsurprising” given that the local geology in East Antarctica has a feature called cratons, a telltale of this rock.
“However, even amongst the Group 1 kimberlites, only 10 percent or so are economically viable, so it’s still a big step to extrapolate this latest finding with any diamond mining activity in Antarctica,” where extraction would be tougher and costlier.
But Kevin Hughes, a senior officer at an international panel called the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), was more cautious.
More than three decades from now, “we do not know what the treaty parties’ views will be on mining... or what technologies might exist that could make extraction of Antarctic minerals economically viable,” he said.
“An additional issue is that nations outside the protocol are not bound by its provisions, including the ban on mineral resource activities.”
Kimberlite takes its name from the town of Kimberley, in South Africa, which was created by a diamond rush.
In 1871, a cook found a huge stone while digging on a farm, and within a year 50,000 prospectors were there, digging feverishly and living in a makeshift tented city.


Saudis turn to technology for Eid gatherings

Updated 24 May 2020

Saudis turn to technology for Eid gatherings

  • Family gatherings or not, the use of video-calling applications is keeping families close and loved ones even closer

JEDDAH: Many special Eid-related traditions have been broken this year as families are forced to stay home because of coronavirus restrictions. But technology has come to the rescue with many relying on video calls to bring family members and loved ones closer. 

Eid Al-Fitr is the occasion Saudis look forward to most — attending Eid prayers at the neighborhood mosque, wearing new clothes, the scent of frankincense around the home, and gathering with cousins at grandparents’ houses decked out with lights and decorations to mark the joyous occasion. 

As the Kingdom endures a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many Saudis are refusing to allow the pandemic to break their spirits during Eid. Family gatherings or not, the use of video-calling applications is keeping families close and loved ones even closer.

Among those keeping Eid traditions alive, 27-year-old Mohammed Khayat has found a way to connect with his family who live outside Jeddah. Using Zoom, a popular videoconference platform, he has created a fun competition with family members. 

“There will be two boxes; one with easy questions, the other one with difficult questions. An example from the first box would be ‘act out a song, and if someone guessed it right, you win.’ Or ‘When was Jeddah founded?’ or ‘Who is the 17th grandson of my grandmother?’” he told Arab News.

Khayat highlighted the bright side of Eid during the pandemic with everyone available for a virtual gathering.

“It’s going to be fun, because not all family members are usually present in most of our Eid celebrations at the same time. Many live in different cities or even outside the Kingdom. Yes, it’s going to be online, but it’s a great chance for everyone to gather at the same time.”

Lujain Al-Jehani, 26, plans to put on her best clothes and enjoy Eid despite the global despair.

“We’re going to wear our Eid clothes, dress up, put makeup on, and do our hair and nails. We’re cleaning the house and preparing everything as we always do in Eid, but we’re not expecting any guests this year. It’s just us family together,” she told Arab News.

Before the pandemic, Al-Jehani usually spent Eid with her cousins, often spending the entire day at her grandmother’s house to enjoy the festivities. This year, Al-Jehani said that she and her family will keep their spirits high because “it’s still Eid.”

“I’m going to be spending quality time with my family at home. We will play boardgames, listen to music, have breakfast together and hang some Eid decorations. We want to do our Eid traditions within our family because it’s still Eid. We’ll enjoy spending Eid with our family. Thank God, we’re in good health and we’re together.”