Dr. Stephen Haggerty stood in the humid Liberian jungle, in the summer of 2013, the geology professor from Florida International University was on assignment as the chief exploration officer for the Youssef Diamond Mining Co., The company had the mining rights in a section of Camp Alpha area in Liberia, located on the West Coast of Africa near the Sierra Leone border.
He noticed something: the Pandanus candelabrum, a very large plant with palm fronds and a base made of thick, exposed roots that extend deep into the ground.
“It’s a ‘plant growing on steroids’ is the best way to explain it,” says Haggerty, who had seen the plant at other mines but dismissed it as just part of the just another foliage in the middle of the African jungle. Haggerty had a hunch about this. He cut out a piece of root to peek inside and than found a mysterious black area within the root. He jammed a pry bar underneath the pandanus to uproot the plant.
And There it was!” Haggerty said.
Below the plant were kimberlite rocks. What if, this pandanus plant was “feeding” off the mineral?
Haggerty put his crew to work uprooting nearby pandanus plants. They found exactly what Haggerty had come to the area to discover: a major kimberlite dike about 500 meters across.
Kimberlite doesn’t always yield any diamonds, but diamonds will always be found in kimberlite. “There is a one in one-100th chance that there are diamonds in a kimberlite deposit,” says Haggerty.
If pandanus plants feed off kimberlite, diamond explorers could more easily find the host mineral in the jungle by using satellites imagery to search for pandanus, then mining for the kimberlite.
If this theory is correct, his discovery could be a game-changer in the diamond exploration and mining, making it more efficient and more cost effective to find the gems. No longer would diamond explorers have to choose their mining sites based on rumors, but they could search for the pandanus plant, then start mining, which would save millions of dollars in exploration and mining costs.