Russia admits to having 'trillions of carats' worth of diamonds hidden in an asteroid crater

Back in the 1970s, the Soviet government discovered a rather remarkable deposit of precious gems in a 100 kilometer (62 mile) crater located in eastern Siberia. Called the Popigai crypto-explosion structure, it contains "impact diamonds" — massive mineral deposits that formed when an asteroid hit the area 35-million years ago.

The Russians have kept it a secret all this time, but recently declassified documents now reveal the true extent of the hoard — a cache of diamonds that could supply global markets for another 3,000 years.

Impact diamonds are formed when an asteroid strikes an area rich in graphite deposits. The resulting super-dense minerals are twice as hard as regular diamonds and feature a large grain size. Diamonds like these are highly valued not just for their aesthetic qualities, but also for their use in high-precision scientific and industrial processes (applications like metalworking, the production of efficient semiconductors, and so on).

Russia admits to having 'trillions of carats' worth of diamonds hidden in an asteroid crater

And according to the ITAR-TASS Russian News Agency, the Russians chose to keep it a secret because of its pre-existing diamond operations at Mirny, Yakutia. By doing so, the Soviet government (and now the Russian Federation) was able to reap tremendous profits in an otherwise tightly controlled world market (nice, eh?). Moreover, it was also at this time that the Soviet government started to build plants that produced synthetic diamonds. In turn, they stopped all geological studies and all data on the field became classified.

The Russian government finally let the world in on their little secret at a recently concluded scientific conference in Novosibirsk — an acknowledgement that's sure to send shock waves through the global gem markets. Speaking to TASS, Russian geologist Nikolai Pokhilenko admitted that, "the first results of research were sufficient to talk about a possible overturn of the entire world market of diamonds."

Russia admits to having 'trillions of carats' worth of diamonds hidden in an asteroid crater

And indeed, the deposit of super-hard diamonds contained in rocks of the Popigai crypto-explosion structure is massive — about trillions of carats. This is ten times the amount found in Yakutia.

Moreover, this extraterrestrial diamond deposit is the only one in the world. By virtue of this unique cache, Russia now has a monopoly on what will surely be a very sought after resource. And indeed, geologists say there is enough raw material in the crater to supply global demand for centuries to come.

Sources: ITAR-TASS, The Siberian Times, CSM; h/t to Mining.com. Inset image via sdecoret/shutterstock and Siberian Times.