(NewsNation) — The emergence of pink diamonds found so far may have formed due to the breakup of Earth’s first supercontinent, according to new research.
The Western Australia-based Argyle mine, which ceased operations in Australia in November 2020, produced 90% of the colored gems. Now, scientists have a new estimate for when and how these gems arrived at Earth’s surface, according to the study published in the journal Nature Communications.
While analyzing minerals and rocks extracted from the Argyle deposits, researchers found that the stones were formed during the breakup of Nuna, an ancient supercontinent, some 1.3 million years ago.
“While the continent that would become Australia didn’t break up, the area where Argyle is situated was stretched, including along the scar, which created gaps in the Earth’s crust for magma to shoot up through to the surface, bringing with it pink diamonds,” said lead study author Dr. Hugo Olierook, a research fellow at Curtin University’s John de Laeter Centre in Perth, Australia, in a news release.
This discovery hints at the possibility that ancient continental junctures may be hiding other colorful gems.
Dr. Robert Pidego, who led a team in the 1980s, found that Argyle’s diamond-studded volcanic rocks erupted 1.2 billion years ago, The New York Times reports. However, Pidego, now an emeritus professor at Curtin, questioned his own findings.
Argyles diamond-rich eruption blasted through an ancient lake which altered ancient rocks and may have affected the accuracy of the dating estimate.
Researchers used a laser, finer than a hair’s width, to produce the new estimate. This supports the idea that eruption happened about 1.3 years ago — which is 100 million years before Pidegos estimate.
The connection between continental rifting and diamond deposits is an established concept, though the specifics are subject to debate. Recent modeling proposes that the breakup of the supercontinent could induce mantel currents, leading to eruptions rich in diamonds bursting through the Earth’s crust.