The recent type II diamond found in the northwest of #Liberia by Youssef Diamond #mining Company (YDMC) exploration geologists headlined an "exciting diamond find for Liberia." This is not the first time YMDC has prompted similar breaking news headlines across the mining and exploration sector media. In 2013, an almost identical headline ran in the Mining Weekly when John Bristow reported that a "kimberlite pipe had been found in the Alpha Camp exploration area of Cape Mount County in Liberia."

Liberia Camp Alpha diamond region

As with any mineral exploration, the first steps involve geophysics, on the ground hard slogging and sampling by hand.

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The samples are often taken from pits, but given the swampy forested ground cover in the region, sampling was also carried out using specially designed corrugated steel rods. Initial phase one sampling in the Camp Alpha region did yield some small diamonds in the region of 1 to 20 carats. Scoping and bankable feasibility were assessed and at the time, the newly discovered kimberlite pipe with a proven length of 438 m and a width of up to 45m was described as having the potential to "boost Liberia’s developing economy."

The diamond indicating plant

Along the road, the ongoing exploration by US-funded YMDC made another interesting diamond headline - this time relating to the possibility that a certain plant - the P. candelabrum - might indicate the presence of a Kimberlite pipe or dyke. South African-born geologist Steve Haggerty the exploration CEO for YMDC was reported in ScienceMag in 2015 as saying that this plant "seems to grow only above Kimberlite pipes." As he found another concentration of the plants at another pipe site near Camp Alpha, this news could literally make hunting for potential diamond-yielding pipes in the region much easier.

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Type II diamonds Lesotho

The most recent find - a Type II diamond is particularly exciting. It was recovered not far from the original Kimberlite pipe discovery in 2013. #Type II diamonds are found at Letseng in Lesotho and at nearby Lucara's Mothae Mine. The phase two bulk sampling at Mothae which started in 2010 has yielded some excellent Type II diamonds. During the initial bulk sampling phase at Mothae Mine, Frank Flowers was sub-contracted as site environmental officer by Remote Exploration Services. Asked if the presence of plants could indicate diamonds in specific areas, he said that geologists from Mineral Services and the crushing plant operators from Gemcore had often casually tossed around the concept of plant life indicating diamond-bearing geological features below the top soils. "If this discovery holds water then it could make exploration for diamonds in Liberia very much less invasive," he said. " Plants have been used to identify copper deposits in Central Africa in the past."

Diamond exploration and even diamond mining from Kimberlite pipes are fairly environmentally friendly even without the potential of plants to guide geologists to promising areas.

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The processing does not involve chemicals such as those used in gold and other mineral extraction. YDMC confirm this, describing the contents of slimes dams as "about as toxic as garden fertilizer." The nature of mining a pipe means that the area of disturbance is minimal.

Bulk exploration and the environment

The mining laws of Liberia are modeled on those of Australia, and environmental issues are carefully regulated for formal mining. The promise of more diamonds from the Cape Mount County in Liberia is feasible. Artisanal miners have been scratching for alluvial diamonds in the area for years. Bulk sampling where the Type II diamond was discovered is set to continue in earnest in 2017. According to Mining Weekly, "The programme will focus on the 500 m x 50 m kimberlite pipe located previously, the array of kimberlite dykes and the terrace gravels along the margins of the discovery valley."