Saturday, September 24, 2011

The RUSSIANS are COMING!

Goo-Day Mate!  Off to Australia I went in 1986 to look at the great Argyle diamond mine in the Kimberlys of northern Australia. At the time, the mine was developing into the largest and most productive diamond mine in the world. I had always wanted to see Australia - I heard they had jackrabbits that made the Wyoming rabbits look small and could even carry our Wyoming fuzzy critters in their front pocket - now that's a rabbit! 
On my nearly one month journey of Australia, I visited a couple of diamond mines with rocks very similar to those in the Leucite Hills of Wyoming. These were not kimberlites, but instead were lamproites. It was a great discovery that was missed by DeBeers because it didn't quite fit their exploration model. So an Australian group (Ashton) had to find this deposit. Exploration models are great, but so is an open mind.


While in the search for diamonds in the outback, we discovered that the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth was not really in Phoenix. According to Bill Bryson's book, In a Sunburned Country, the highest temperature ever recorded was in the Australian outback (145 degrees F). Note the group of people in the photo to the left - only two people were not under the only two shade trees for hundreds of kilometers. One was the photographer (me). 
Some of the Argyle diamonds
So, we visited the Argyle mine - and believe it or not, they would not give us free samples! We later visited the Noonkahbah field of lamproites and then the Ellendale lamproites. It was a great trip even though there was no water in the outback to bathe in or drink - at least nothing that I was interested in (see photo below). Before and after the diamond field trips, we explored some gold camps in greenstone belts and examined auriferous shear zones, pillow basalts and some spectacular spinifex komatiites. While there, I met some people I knew, and also made some new friends.

One person I met in Australia was Dr. Valadiski who was a scientist from Russia, which was still part of the ominous Soviet Union in those days. I was surprised by his candor and enjoyed talking with him. But for any Democrat who thinks socialism is a good idea, you should have your head examined. After talking to people who lived in this repressed society, it is amazing that anyone in our society could think there is anything beneficial.

So while I was in Australia, apparently a reporter from the Casper Star Tribune, a local paper from central Wyoming stopped by my office looking for information on diamond exploration activity in Wyoming. He was told I was at an Australian diamond conference, and I would be back in two weeks.

Two weeks later, the very day I got back from the outback, the reporter called to see if I could give him information on diamond exploration in the Leucite Hills north of Rock Springs and wanted to know if I had talked to any company reps who were looking for diamonds in Wyoming?

"Sorry" I said, "but there was not much information". "I talked to a geologist from a Belgium mining company - they had taken a small sample from the Leucite Hills, but their lab was still processing the sample and there were no results yet".

"Was there anyone else", he asked?

"Just one other person", I said. "While talking with one of the top Soviet diamond geologists, he mentioned he had developed a geochemical model for identifying diamond potential in lamproites. By using the available published geochemistry in the literature and plugging it into his model, he told me there could not be any diamonds in the Leucite Hills!"

"Oh" he said. And that was the end of the conversation and I thought the end of this.

Not so! People today talk mainstream press and its problems. Well, its always been bad; its just today, they are a little worse. Why do you think no one buys newspapers anymore.

Well, the next day, an article showed up in the headlines of the Casper Star Tribune and the Laramie Boomerang, "Soviets Investigating Possibility of Diamonds in Sweetwater County!".

When I got to work, the State Geologist, Gary Glass called me in his office and asked me what was going on - the phones were ringing off the wall and every red neck in the state wanted to know where exactly these Russians were located so they could run them out of the US!

So, in between the next 3 to 4 thousand phone calls, I wrote a letter to the editor. It was published in a tiny column. It didn't matter, few people saw the letter to the editor and the phones continued to ring for weeks. At the time, I was disgusted, but today, I guess it kind of entertaining.
A sample of Argyle olivine lamproite.
This rock was some of the richest ever
found. It reportedly averaged 680
carats per 100 tonnes.
Mt Gytha lamproite breccia in the Noonkanbah field in Australia

Looking towards hill in the Ellendale field from a termite mound.
The hill in the background is one of the several Ellendale lamproite
volcanoes in the outback.

2 comments:

  1. That could be a great place to visit. I always wanted to visit Australia. Hopefully I can very soon.

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