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Using blimps to find diamonds?

De Beers has teamed with Bell Geospace to use geophysical methods such as gravity surveys to find new diamond reserves and it will be using a Zeppelin to conduct these surveys.

It might be true that "a diamond is forever," but it's becoming hard to find a real one. As the De Beers company has not discovered significant new reserves of kimberlite in South Africa and Zimbabwe in recent years, it turned to Botswana to find these rocks which indicate the presence of diamonds. But, as reports Mineweb, instead of relying on soil samples, De Beers teamed with Bell Geospace to use geophysical methods such as gravity surveys. And after using planes for a while, the company has now ordered a big Zeppelin to conduct these gravity surveys. The blimp, which recently arrived in South Africa, will start its eight-month research mission in October 2005. Will it be successful? Time will tell.

Here is the introduction of the Mineweb article.

In attempt to re-live the glory days, De Beers is actively exploring and re-exploring the Botswana landscape, this time with new technology.
The company has even ordered a blimp from Zeppelin, to conduct more detailed geophysics surveys at a five-times better performance than existing technology.

Before going further, below is a picture of the De Beers Zeppelin, with all its logos, after its long trip from Germany to Cape Town, South Africa (Credit: ZLT, for Hot Air Magazine, the Netherlands, September 2005). [Caution: this page will take some time to load, and you'll find the story about the blimp -- if you read Dutch -- as the item #11.]

The De Beers Zeppelin

Apparently, the company thought a while ago it had enough reserves and neglected the exploration process.

"We realised that in the early Eighties and started re-focussing back to exploration, with the result of finding a substantial number of kimberlites," [said Dr Mike De Wit, head of African Exploration, De Beers.]
Between 2001 and 2005 the company found just less than 20 kimberlites, with 11 of those coming in the last 18 months.

This is why De Beers wants now to use modern geophysical methods, and will be using its new Zeppelin.

The question is: will this new approach work? Back in the mid-seventies, after the first oil shock, some crooks tried to sell "sniffing planes" to the French major oil company, saying it will easily discover oil deposits from the sky. De Beers's approach seems more serious.

PS: Thanks to Deidre Woollard, who wrote about this story in Luxist, a blog covering luxury products.

Sources: Gareth Tredway, Mineweb, August 11, 2005; and various web sites

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