General, Research, Technology

Kimberlite pipe or the largest hole in the Earth

Not everyone has heard this enougha rare phrase like "kimberlite pipe". Even those who say that these words are familiar to them, it is still not a fact that they will be able to answer the question of what it is. However, this is what stands at the origins of the jewelry industry and what we call diamonds. These minerals are mined from huge "holes" in the ground, just looking at which you already stop treating the word "pipe" as something small and almost toy. The history of this phrase originates in Africa, and this method of diamond mining is really amazing in its scale and in how many people support the work of the deposits. Let's figure out what it is, and why whole cities are often built around such deposits. Believe me, the scale will impress you and you will have something to discuss with your friends. And at the same time I will tell you what happens to these whoppers, when you can no longer dig them.

The dimensions of kimberlite pipes are enormous.


  • 1 What is kimberlite pipe
  • 2 What is inside the kimberlite pipe
  • 3 How a kimberlite pipe is developed
  • 4 The largest kimberlite pipe in Russia

What is kimberlite pipe

First of all, you need to understand that a kimberlite pipe is it is not some small objectthat lies in the ground or is an instrumentgeologist, but a full-fledged geological body. So it is customary to call formations in the earth's crust that have some specific properties or are of scientific and commercial interest.

It is customary to call a kimberlite pipe a vertical or at least close to vertical geological body, which is formed when magma breaks through the earth's crust. The pipe itself is filled with kimberlite... It is logical, right?

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This is how the breed and the pipe itself are called because ofhistorical features of the discovery of such geological bodies. This happened for the first time in South Africa near the city of Kimberley. Since then, wherever such a pipe is located, it is always called kimberlite.

Now this is how the very first kimberlite pipe looks like in Kimberley.

Such a geological body is called preciselypipe due to the fact that it is really elongated and goes into the ground like a pipe. Taking into account the peculiarities of geological processes, its dimensions are enormous. Kimberlite pipe reaches 400-1000 meters in diameter... Sometimes its dimensions even exceed these values. In fact, this is a channel through which gases and molten magma passed in ancient times.

What's inside a kimberlite pipe

Externally, the rock that is in kimberlitetube, is volcanic debris, a tuff-like mass of greenish-gray color and minerals distributed along it. The tuff-like mass is based on such substances as xenoliths, phlogopite, olivine, carbonates, pyrope and other minerals.

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The most important thing that makes you studythe development of kimberlite pipes are diamonds. It is these small stones that are worth hauling millions of tons of rock from place to place with quarry trucks. After diamond processing, diamonds are obtained. Not so long ago, I already talked about how diamonds are mined, how they are processed, and gave examples of the largest and most expensive of them. Then the article found a great response among the participants in our Telegram chat and they asked for more information about kimberlite pipes.

Wherever you look, there is a pipe everywhere. Notice that there is a stadium in the picture and estimate its size against the background of this huge hole.

There are about 1500 kimberlite pipes in the world, but not all of them make sensedevelop, since only a tenth of them are diamondiferous. Most of them are unprofitable, and the most useful in terms of “exhaust” are found in South Africa, India and Yakutia on the Central Siberian platform.

It is interesting that the first kimberlite pipe in Yakutia was discovered not by a bearded geologist, but by a woman - Larisa Popugaeva. It happened on August 21, 1954. She got the name "Zarnitsa".

The kimberlite pipe is such a big pillarwhich expands near the surface and tapers at depth. In fact, these are the echoes of ancient volcanoes. At the moment, their upper part is destroyed due to erosion processes, but the base and kimberlite pipes have been preserved. That is, many millions of years ago, these places were not so quiet and peaceful. But it was then that the Earth shared with us diamonds, which are formed only at a great depth under pressure thousands of times higher than atmospheric. Now we just have to collect them. Of course, if the word “only” is applicable to such a titanic amount of work.

Here's a three-dimensional model.

If you have diamonds at home, look atthem and realize that they were at a depth of tens of kilometers from the surface of the Earth, were under pressure of thousands of atmospheres and spent tens and hundreds of millions of years in this state. They are now used in jewelry. These are real messengers from the past who have come a long way to a ring, earring or necklace. This is much cooler than meteorites.

How the kimberlite pipe is developed

To develop a kimberlite pipe, a funnel-shaped hole is gradually made in the ground, the depth of which reaches 600-700 meters, and the diameter of the upper part is often comparable to the size of a small town... When open pit mining becomes impossible, mines are drilled around the “funnel” to a depth of up to a kilometer (and sometimes more).

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Mining continues through these mines untilas long as it remains profitable and as long as the minerals found in the rock can be sold for more money than was spent on mining. If the trend reverses and the balance is negative, attempts will be made to further search for minerals away from the funnel and gradually production will be stopped.

There are many names for mines and tunnels around the pipe, but they are not so important. Enough spatial structure to understand what is happening there.

For processing rock near the mining sitea mining and processing plant is being built, and an entire city is being built to house the miners, which will have all the infrastructure, entertainment facilities and even an airfield. Often times such places can only be reached by air.

I talked about how mining and processing plants work and how diamonds are processed in this article.

Field development is often carried out usingexplosions. This is the safest, safest and most inexpensive method, as even mining excavators will not pull such a volume of rock. The explosives are laid inside the rock, after which it falls and is removed by huge mining trucks to "extract diamonds from it."

Against the backdrop of the scale of the quarry, trucks seem tiny, but in fact, they can crush a car or a pickup truck and not even notice it (there were cases)

The largest kimberlite pipe in Russia

The largest field in Russia is Mir, which is located in Yakutia. In him diamonds were mined from 1957 to 2001... The subsoil user is Alrosa, andthe volume of ore processed during this time amounted to 68 million tons. Now this kimberlite pipe is no longer “working” and mining there has been stopped, but it was there that the largest diamonds were mined there in Soviet times, which deservedly took a place in the ranking of the largest.

The Mir kimberlite pipe is simply huge.

Despite the high level of automationprocess, you still have to involve a lot of people in the production. Perhaps, in the near future, to ensure the operation of such objects, a couple of people at the computer will be needed, but this will not happen soon, as hardly anyone will come up with a working way of mining as efficient as the open method.