Scottish Highlands set for Britain's first diamond rush

DIAMOND HUNTERS are increasingly confident that the Scottish Highlands hold untold wealth and may yield Britain's first haul of diamonds.

After panning rivers and lakes on five potential sites, they have subjected the fine dust to microscopic examination and have spotted chromites, often an indicator for the presence of gemstones.

Cambridge Mineral Resources (CMR), a Bristol-based exploration company, has spent the past six months searching sites which include Orkney, Uig on the Isle of Lewis, the area around Ben Hope in the north of Sutherland, the Isle of Colonsay and Lochaber.

Dust samples were sent for examination to a company belonging to Chuck Fipke, the explorer who discovered the multi-billion pound Ekati diamond deposits in Lac de Gras, northern Canada.

The latest hunt is based on the belief that, in Scotland, there are deposits of the type found in the Australian fields. Geophysicists have also become increasingly interested in Scotland because its rock structure is quite similar to that found in Donegal, in the Irish Republic, where Cambridge Mineral Resources is poised to begin drilling for diamonds next year.

"It is early days, but we are enthusiastic about what we have been finding," said David Bramhill, managing director of CMR, who declined to give the precise locations of the potential sites. "In Scotland, unlike in Ireland, there is no proper licensing system for prospecting so we have to be careful not to let others know where we are looking.

"In any case, I would not advise the ordinary public to turn up and start looking. You could trip over a rock containing a sapphire and you would not know what it was."

He said that landowners had so far been very cooperative and he expected that, if gemstones were discovered, royalties might be paid by the mining company at a rate of about 4.5 per cent, turning some Highland crofters into instant millionaires.

The next stage may be an electro-magnetic survey of certain areas.

Mr Bramhill, a veteran of North Sea oil exploration, warned against over- optimism, saying that it was too early to promise success. But he said the company was increasing its exploration budget from pounds 50,000 to pounds 300,000 because of the good results so far.

Dr Graham Smith, principal Scottish minerals geologist at the British Geological Survey, said the work the BGS had carried out for CMR had been encouraging. "I would take what they are doing quite seriously," he said.

Diamonds have never been found in quantity in Britain, although in 1813 what became known as the "Brookeborough Diamond" was discovered in a stream in Co Fermanagh. And in 1995 Britain's largest sapphire, at 9.6 carats worth about pounds 60,000, was discovered at Loch Roag, near Uig on Lewis.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory