The University of Alberta in Canada, possessing "probably the biggest asembly of highly specialized diamond research equipment in the world" according to Graham Pearson, the school's principal investigator and Canada Excellence Chair in Arctic Resources, wants to train the next generation of diamond hunters. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has announced an investment of $1.65 million over the next six years to create a new Diamond Exploration Research and Training School (DERTS). Canada’s diamond industry is worth roughly $2 billion dollars, but with two out of three Canadian mines within about a decade of running out of diamond ore, the pressure is on to find new ones to keep the sparkly stuff flowing. The major issue, according to Pearson, is that finding a diamond deposit is extremely difficult. “The richness of the deposit can be measured in carats per ton. And a really good deposit might be 1 carat be ton. So what does that mean in reality? A carat is 0.2 of a gram so you’re looking at parts per million of diamonds,” he said.
Complicating things further, unlike gold for example, the value of a diamond can vary wildly, even within the same deposit. So after a deposit is found someone needs to estimate its value. “One of the toughest jobs in all of mining is to predict what a diamond deposit is going to be worth. I would not like to be making that decision, it’s a very hard decision,” Pearson said. The hope is that the new school, launching in September 2016, will help train people who have these kinds of skills. The new money means the research of fifteen phD and Masters students will be fully funded. The program will also work with 10 industry partners, including familiar names like De Beers, Diavik Mines and Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation. Pearson says they’re currently scouting for students with a background in geography and geophysics—but who also just passionate about diamonds. “Diamonds give you a unique window into the earth,” he said.