Focus on


The De Beers survey off the coast of Greenland will help determine whether the seabed contains deposits of marine diamonds.



In August 2019, former U.S President Donald Trump raised eyebrows and garnered more than a few smirks when he suggested that the American federal government should purchase from Denmark the autonomous region of Greenland, the world’s largest island, located in frigid waters between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

“Essentially it’s a large real estate deal,” the American President said. But his Danish counterpart, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, was not amused, and her ruling Danish People’s Party released a statement noting that this is “final proof he has gone mad.” Piqued by the criticism and possibly the rejection of his offer, Trump canceled a planned trip to Copenhagen.

With a landmass of 2.1 million square kilometers, Greenland’s total population is 56,500. By way of comparison, the island of Great Britain is about one-ninth the size in terms of land mass, but it is home to somewhat larger number of inhabitants, 68 million in total.

But while sparsely populated, Greenland is rich in natural resources. It is part of the Arctic, which is estimated to hold 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas.

The island has been a mining nation since the late 1700s, where coal was excavated at Qaarsut on the Nuussauq Peninsula. That was only the beginning, in addition to coal, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, graphite, olivine, cryolite, marble and more recently rubies have been mined. And now, diamonds are being spoken about.


According to a Reuters report, De Beers has just commissioned a survey of the ocean floor off Greenland’s coast, as part of the in a first step to determine whether it could hold deposits of highly prized marine diamonds.

The survey, which covered an 800-kilometer stretch of seabed adjacent to Greenland’s west coast, near the town of Maniitsoq, was conducted by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS).

“De Beers Marine would like to determine whether the offshore environment is conducive to the formation of secondary diamond deposits,” Reuters said that an environmental mitigation assessment report prepared by De Beers for Greenland’s mineral resource authority had stated.

Greenland is the world’s largest island, located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans

“The focus of the small-scale, early stage survey is to understand the topography of the region,” De Beers said.

It should be pointed that the survey was targeting alluvial diamonds scattered on the seabed. Actual deposits of diamonds are already known to exists onshore in West Greenland, and they most probably would be the actual source for the diamonds in the sea.

The SS Nujoma, De Beers Marine’s diamond exploration and sampling vessel.


It’s worth noting that a major part of diamond exploration in recent decades has taken place in the Northern Hemisphere, and in cold and often frozen regions. This follows a century in which the bulk of mining activity was in the Southern Hemisphere, in hot and dry areas. It’s not that the presence of diamonds in the north were not known about before then. It’s rather that they were considered too expensive to extract.

Cold-weather diamond mining began in Russia. Exploration, there had begun the late 1930s, but the first primary diamond deposit in the Soviet Union, the Zarnitsa pipe, was discovered only in 1954.

The pioneering work of Russian geologists and miners encouraged the exploration for diamonds in Canada. That began in the 1960s, but it was only in 1991 that the first economically viable diamond deposit was discovered in the Lac de Gras area of the Northwest Territories. Ekati, Canada’s first diamond mine, began operating in October 1998.


More recently, in an area in the east of Finland, known as Northern Savonia, the Lahtojoki kimberlite deposit was discovered. If all goes as planned it will become become the first diamond mine in the European Union.

Indirectly, Greenland may be the next quasi-EU diamond producing region. Although not European it still is a territory belonging to a member, Denmark, unless, of course, Trump gets his way.