Alberta is famous for its cowboys and cowgirls, energy development, and breathtaking Rocky Mountain views. But did you know that there’s a sparkly little secret beneath our feet?
Yes, Alberta’s geology is more than hoodoos and fossils—we have diamonds, too! This is exciting, but before you run off with your rock hammer, there are a few things you should know about Alberta’s diamonds.
- The right ingredients. Obviously the number one thing to know about diamonds in Alberta is that there actually are diamonds in Alberta! Geologically speaking, Alberta is favourable for them. The province is made up of relatively young, flat-lying sedimentary terrain overtop of older (i.e., more than two billion years) craton—the stable part of the earth’s crust. This craton is favourable for the formation and preservation of diamonds.
- You can’t have diamonds without kimberlites. Kimberlite is the volcanic-type rock that carries the diamonds from where they are formed, at depths greater than 150 kilometres below the surface. While not all kimberlites contain diamonds, they are a good indicator of the presence of more kimberlites that may contain diamonds, and the ones that do contain the precious stone need to have a significant amount of good quality diamonds to be considered valuable.
- Alberta has plenty of kimberlites. To date, 51 kimberlites have been found in Alberta, and the most promising are in three areas in northern Alberta: Buffalo Head Hills, Birch Mountains, and Mountain Lake. Buffalo Head Hills has the best diamond exploration prospects, with 28 of its 41 kimberlites containing diamonds—some with encouraging grades.
- Keep your eyes peeled. Diamonds have been found in other areas of Alberta, such as the amazing find by one Entwistle resident in 1958. While going about his day, Einar Opdahl came across a perfect octahedral diamond (weighing in at almost one carat!) in the banks of the Pembina River west of Edmonton.
- Even the small ones count. While most diamond discoveries aren’t as spectacular as Mr. Opdahl’s, small diamonds, or ones of low quality, are still important as they can be used for industrial purposes, such as in circular saw blades and drill bits—the very bits that are used to tap Alberta’s better-known treasures, oil and gas.