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Press Release 08-100

Diamonds Are Forever Revealing New Insights Into Earth's Development

New research in South Africa shows possible explanation for how Bushveld platinum ores were created

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A graphic describing the forces that formed the Bushveld Complex in South Africa.

Researchers studied platinum group elements (PGE) inclusions in about 20 diamonds collected near the Bushveld Complex in South Africa. The complex is vast, measuring hundreds of kilometers in length, and it is one of the few places in the world where PGEs are found in large enough quantities to be mined. The Bushveld Complex is also very old--geologists put its age at just over 2 billion years--and formed by crystallization of the Bushveld magmas in a massive crustal magma chamber. The researchers looked at the PGEs in the diamonds, sometimes analyzing grains as small as a few micrograms. They found that the isotopic signatures of the PGEs in the diamonds and Bushveld ore minerals match, showing the main source of Bushveld platinum to be mantle, not crust falling into the magma chamber as previously thought.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation

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