Diamonds—and Shipping—in Antarctica

MarineLink.com
Friday, December 20, 2013

Kimberlite deposits, igneous rock formations often containing diamonds, have been discovered in Antarctica, according to a report by Nature Communications. And though no diamonds have been discovered, researchers believe they are there, along with other valuable substances.

Gold, platinum, copper, iron and coal have already been discovered in Antarctica, and diamond mining has reached many of the coldest regions globally. So is diamond mining in Antarctica a possibility, and how will it affect the commercial maritime industry?

By way of the Antarctic Treaty, mining is currently forbidden in the area, and the ban is expected, though not entirely certain, to be extended to 2041. But much is likely to change by 2041, including world demand for diamonds and technological advances that make operations safer and more environmentally sound in cold weather regions such as Antactica and the Arctic. This goes not only for mining, but for transportation as well.

On the other side of the globe, Arctic shipping operations have increased drastically over recent years, credited in great part to the melting of large amounts of sea ice in the region, making for a much safer, more attractive sea route option. According to research led by the U.S. Navy, the current trend of increased activity in the Arctic is expected to continue, both short-term and long. “In the far-term, beyond 2030, environmental conditions are expected to support even greater and more reliable maritime presence in the region. Major waterways are predicted to be consistently open for longer periods, with a significant increase in traffic over the summer months.”

According to the U.S. Antarctic Program, a similar scene is observed in Antarcitca, too. If trends persist in colder regions and a mining boom in Antarctica occurs, commercial maritime operators will be summoned to assist in an array of transport and mining-related tasks, opening a new line of demands in the marine sector.
 

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