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Annual demand for impact diamonds may be 1 billion carats, expert says

Scientists say impact diamonds have absolutely unique technology features

KRASNOYARSK, April 12. /TASS/. Development of the Popigai deposit of impact diamonds in the Krasnoyarsk Region’s north will offer new raw material to the global industry. An annual demand for it in various sectors may be up to 1 billion carats. Development of the resources, which formed after a meteorite hit the Earth 36 million years ago, will require common efforts of the Krasnoyarsk Region and Yakutia, experts told TASS.

Presently, the global industry uses natural technical and artificial diamonds; most of them are made in China. The annual global consumption of synthetic diamonds is 15-16 billion carats. Scientists say impact diamonds (which develop from graphite rocks at the time an asteroid hits the Earth) have absolutely unique technology features. For example, they can process materials twice or 2.5 times quicker than synthetic or natural technical diamonds. Their wear resistance is three to six times higher, and their thermal stability is 250 degrees higher. Thus, Popigai diamonds may be used in many modern high-tech areas, including in the processing of super-hard materials, ultra-precise processing of small and optical products, in electronics, defense industry, oil production, rocket engineering, mechanical engineering and medicine.

"The industry may get adapted to this raw material [after it is brought to the market] within about five years, and [then] there will be [a demand of] 350-400 million carats. In about 10 years, the period of active consumption of this raw material will be about 1 billion carats a year," Nikolai Pokhilenko, Deputy Chairman of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Scientific Director of the Sobolev Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, told TASS.

The Popigai deposit is located in the Krasnoyarsk Region at the border with Yakutia, in the area of the Popigayskaya astrobleme - a hundred-kilometer meteorite crater. According to regional plans, the Taimyr municipal district will develop the deposit of technical diamonds after 2030.

"They (Popigai diamonds - TASS) may influence greatly the global market of technical diamonds," Business Russia’s coordinator in the Siberian Federal District Viktor Zubarev told TASS. "In fact, it is a new product with specific features, which may be very useful for development of advance technologies. Russia must eye this deposit as a major mid and long-term direction in the Arctic zone’s development."

Joint efforts

In spring, 2021, experts of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Siberian Branch discussed with authorities of the Krasnoyarsk Region and Yakutia plans to develop the deposit. The Academy wants to organize two expeditions to Yakutia to assess and explore additionally the Popigai and Tomtor deposits.

"This project will mean a bigger tax base, which, undoubtedly, is very important for the economic and social development of our region’s northern territories," the speaker of the Krasnoyarsk regional legislation Dmitry Sviridov told TASS. "Under the Yenisei Siberia complex project we work closely in the sphere of investment policies with the Siberian southern and eastern districts. In this case, we speak about an improvement of inter-regional relations with Russia’s biggest region in terms of territory - Yakutia."

Yakutia’s Minister of Industry and Geology Maksim Tereshchenko told TASS the region wants to focus on development of resources in the south-western part, bordering the Popigai deposit.

"We must respect the special interest investors are paying to rare-earth and precious metals in the global market," he said. "Development of alternative energy, digital technologies push the demand for products from these deposits for years to go. Development of the Popigai deposit could be a positive example of cooperation between industrial companies, scientists and authorities in taking most effective economic decisions."

Industrial development

The deposit of extra hard diamonds with unusual properties was discovered in the 1970s by Soviet geologists. The country did not begin its development, as the Soviet leadership preferred to organize a network of plants to produce synthetic diamonds. All information about the deposit was classified. In the early 21st century, the secrecy was lifted.

"There is a huge amount of this material there. <...> The reserves there are such that there is enough for the entire world for at least a thousand years," Pokhilenko stressed.

In the 1980s, the forecasted reserves were estimated at 1.2 trillion carats, which is very relative. The reserves of the Skalistoye deposit alone, which is an insignificant area in the crater, have been put on the balance sheet at 500 billion carats. Two more deposits have been discovered - the Udarnoye and Vstrechnoye. The Taimyr’s strategy for social and economic development to 2030 reads: the reserves of these three deposits exceed the total reserves of the world’s all known diamondiferous provinces.

The reference point for the field’s development, the village of Popigai, is located in the northwestern part of the Popigai crater. The population is 274 people, mostly the Dolgans. The majority are engaged in hunting and fishing - traditional for indigenous peoples of the North - and in roaming together with reindeer herds. It is next to impossible to reach Popigai on the phone, it is very difficult to get to it, and it is important for the locals that industrial activities do not damage the fragile ecological balance.

The regional government stress they pay special attention to environmental aspects in planning work at the Arctic fields. "Our approach to development of the Arctic and the northern territories in the region focuses first of all on ecology aspects and use of best available technology. This is a fundamental position," the regional government’s Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Tsykalov told TASS.