Diamond Thieves Coming to a Location Near You
Billie and I have often driven from Boulder to Yellowstone National Park. It is always an extraordinary trip, but one of the most scenic parts is Highway 287 north of Ft. Collins to Laramie. The road winds steadily uphill through a gorgeous canyon before peaking at the Wyoming border, where the landscape becomes more open and the winds begin to blow. The colors and rock formations of the Red Feather Lakes region have become a unique and special part of that trip.
Last time we drove through, we learned from Roadside Geology of Wyoming that diamonds had been discovered along the Wyoming/Colorado border in 1975, and that the area is one of only two stretches in the United States – the other is in Arkansas – that conceivably might produce commercial diamonds in this country, although the book calls mining profitability “doubtful because diamonds are not abundant and the cost of mining them is too high.”
So the hairs on the back of my neck went up while reading a story making the rounds this morning about a proposal by DiamonEx, a mining company, seeking a permit to begin exploratory drilling for diamonds in a three-acre area in North Rabbit Creek Valley, about nine miles west of 287 near the little town of Livermore, which is the turn-off point for the Red Feather Lakes region. DiamonEx leased surface and mineral rights to explore in 2007 and says it believes that the valley might yield hundreds of thousands of diamonds.
Its website boasts that DiamonEx is a supplier of DLC coatings and CVD diamond products, based on its “proprietary technologies for manufacturing polycrystalline and amorphous diamond and related materials utilizing advanced chemical and physical vapor deposition processes.”
The move has residents who live in the valley very frightened, and for damned good reasons. The first being that open-pit diamond mining produces the largest waste-rock-to-product ratios of any commodity, and the second corollary is that expanded operations would bring a steady stream of heavy trucks and equipment into a rural residential area along small dirt roads that couldn’t handle it. It is also very close to the Cache la Poudre River, a popular, scenic watershed for brown trout fishing, paddling, hiking and camping.
They have started a non-profit group called Leave Our Valley Alone Forever, and a website to provide information about the proposal. Check it out.
DiamonEx, based in Australia, opened a huge diamond mine in Botswana earlier this year. Asia Business Newswire published a Commissioning Update on the company’s mine in Botswana, dated 22 August 2008, that says the Lerala Diamond Mine is today operating at 100 tons per hour on its way to a full production target of 200 tons per hour.
The only commercial diamond mine in the United States operated north of the proposed site in the valley for a few years. The Kelsey Lake Mine went into operation in June of 1996 and went bankrupt two years later, opened again in 2000 and closed again in 2002. According to geology.com, the mine produced four carats of diamonds per 100 metric tons, and more than 50 percent of the diamonds were gem quality.
Besides the environmental chicanery something like this would produce, the rest of the drive to Yellowstone only underscores the inevitable fallout of mining’s boom/bust cycles. Near-ghost-towns like Jeffrey City are scattered across Wyoming, flowing but mostly ebbing, and always discarded when no longer useful to mining operations that just move on to the next boom.
According to the group’s material, “a commercial dig could expand to 24 acres, generate 586 trips daily on the skinny Larimer County Road 82E and consume 26,415 gallons of water per hour, along with 12 giant diesel generators operating 24 hours a day.”
Even if that’s the worst-case hypothetical scenario, it is another reason this is a monumentally bad idea for everyone except perhaps DiamonEx.