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DIAMOND IN VENEZUELA AND GUYANA

HISTORICAL REVIEW of DIAMOND GEOLOGY and MINING

    Exchange rate between the old and present value is: £1 = US$140.

In 1890, diamonds have been found in another part of South America, about 2,000 miles northwest of the famous Brazilian localities, namely, in the gold-washings on the upper course of the River Mazaruni in British Guiana. The discovery was made accidentally by Edward Gilkes, who, while prospecting for gold along the Putareng creek, a tributary of the Mazaruni, found a few diamonds in the batea he was accustomed to use for gold-washing. The locality is situated in latitude 6º 14' N. and longitude 60º 18' W., about 150 miles above the town of Bartica on the confluence of the Mazaruni and Essequibo Rivers. It was reached after a twelve to twenty days journey, according to the state of the river, which has many falls and rapids, from Georgetown. The exact spot is situated about four miles from the Mazaruni, and is reached by a narrow trail across swampy land and through tropical jungle, everything having to be carried on the heads of Indians.

The rocks of the Mazaruni valley are largely gneisses and granite traversed by dykes of diabase and other similar rocks. The diamond-workings at present under consideration are situated on the side of a hill, and penetrate
(1) 18 inches of pure, white quartz-sand,
(2) 18 inches of yellowish sandy clay, with fragments of quartz and portions of sand and gravel cemented together by iron oxide, in which small diamonds are occasionally found,
(3) 7 feet-the present limit of working of clay, which becomes more and more gravely and the constituent fragments larger and more frequently cemented together with iron oxide, as greater depths are reached. Some of the pebbles are much rounded, and have sand and smaller pebbles attached to them by a felspathic cement, while others are sharp and angular. Some consist of felsite and concretionary ironstone, but most are of quartz. Associated with these pebbles are grains of ilmenite and small rounded pebbles of black tourmaline and pleonaste, and occasionally of topaz and corundum.

When dug out, the gravel is carried in wooden dishes to a little creek hard by, where it is washed in sieves of one-sixteenth inch mesh, the residue being picked over while wet.

The diamonds, originally found by Mr. Gilkes in 1890, were obtained at the foot of the hill in the bottom of the valley. The diamantiferous gravel here contains many crystals of quartz, and rests upon a bedrock of kaolin, differing in both these respects from that which lies on the hillside.

Up to 1,900 diamonds had been found only over an area of country measuring 200 yards in length by about 100 in breadth, but it is probable that the diamantiferous gravels are much more widely distributed. The mode of occurrence of the diamond in the gravels and the minerals with which it is associated are very much the same as in Brazil. The diamond has not yet been found here in its mother-rock; if this should at any time be discovered, British Guiana may become an important diamond-producing country.

As yet there have been found only some few thousands of small diamonds, which have the form of octahedra, and are exceptionally white and brilliant. The smallest are of very small size and the largest about 1 1/2 carats, but there are very few exceeding a carat in weight. During the ten years between 1890 and 1900 between 2,000 and 3,000 diamonds were found, while, according to customhouse returns, the total export of diamonds up to January 28, 1902, amounted to £10,000. A parcel of 282 stones sent to London during the year 1900 was valued at £2 8s. per carat. During a period of six weeks in the following year, a New York company obtained 8,227 small diamonds with an aggregate weight of 767 carats, which were valued at £1,920 or £2 l0s. per carat. A dozen companies have since been organized and are now at work, and fresh ground is constantly being opened up, so that the diamond-mining industry of British Guiana is likely to develop rapidly.

We are indebted for the above account of the occurrence of diamonds on the upper Mazaruni River to Mr. G. F. Kunz's Annual Reports on Precious Stones, in which is brought together much information from various sources.

Professor J. B. Harrison, the Government Geologist of that colony, reports another occurrence of diamond in British Guiana. This is in the gold-washing claims of the Omai creek, this stream being a small tributary of the Essequibo River, which it joins at a spot about 130 miles above the mouth of the latter. From a part of the bed of Gilt creek, one of the tributaries of this stream, measuring about 500 feet in length and 50 in breadth, some 60,000 ounces of gold and some hundreds of small diamonds have been recovered by the somewhat crude methods hitherto in use. The auriferous gravels of this stream consist of fragments of more or less decomposed diabase, pebbles of concretionary ironstone and angular quartz. They yielded at one time hundreds of very small diamonds, the majority of which were perfectly clear and colourless octahedra, the remainder being of various shades of pink, green, and clear yellow.

It is stated by Mr. G. F. Kunz that in Dutch Guiana also diamonds have been found for years past in the tailings of the gold-washings. They have been for the most part small and have attracted but little attention, the gold being the chief object sought for. One fine stone, however, is reported to have been found about the year 1890 and to have been cut in the United States.

Diamond Geology [ 1  India  3  4  5  6  7  8  Brazil  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  Borneo  22   South Africa  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39  40  Venezuela, Guyana  42  Australia  44  Argyle  Congo  46  47  48  49  50  51  52  53  54  55  Angola  57  58  59  Guinea  ]


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This document is in the public domain.

March, 2011