By Michelle Graff
Calgary, Canada—De Beers Group just got a little help from the Canadian government in its quest to come up with a way to make diamond mining carbon neutral.

The diamond miner and marketer announced Tuesday the award of a C$675,000 grant (about $514,000) from the Clean Growth Program of Natural Resources Canada for its carbon-capture research at the Gahcho Kué Mine in the Northwest Territories.

The project is part of a global three-year study that includes mines in Botswana and Venetia in South Africa to allow for comparisons between different climates and geology.

What De Beers and leading academics from four institutions—The University of British Columbia, Trent University, University of Alberta and INRS in Quebec—have been working on is called rapid carbon fixation. It involves injecting carbon dioxide into processed kimberlite rock in order to accelerate a natural process, mineral carbonation.

In mineral carbonation, processed mine rock (the material left after the diamond is extracted from the source rock) sequesters the carbon dioxide as a stable and benign carbonate mineral.

The process takes thousands or millions of years in nature, but about 10 years ago scientists became aware that certain rock types exposed at Earth’s surface could store carbon and started studying how they could make it happen more quickly, said De Beers Canada spokesman Tom Ormsby.

In the case of De Beers’ quest for carbon-neutral mining, Project Lead Greg Dipple, a professor at UCB’s Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining, said they’ve been able to demonstrate rapid carbon fixation within days to weeks in the lab.

They now want to test the technology on a larger scale at the Gahcho Kué Mine, which is what the grant will help researchers do.

De Beers started researching carbon-neutral mining in 2015, with a goal of achieving it within five to 10 years, Ormsby said.

Achieving carbon neutrality would be a big win for diamond miners, as one of the main criticisms lobbed at natural diamonds from the lab-grown sector is that diamond mining is harmful to the environment.

De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver said the company’s progress with its research project shows there is “great potential” to achieve carbon-neutral mining at sites where kimberlite is present, and could “fundamentally change the carbon footprint of not only the diamond industry, but the mining sector more broadly.”

The company said it is “focused on maximizing the benefits that can be generated for the wider mining community” with this project and is working with academics so any findings are retained by them and can therefore be implemented by other mining companies.

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