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RILEY COUNTY, Kansas — It’s a spot in the Flint Hills that looks like so many others. Peaceful, rolling hills, cattle, watering holes, lots and lots of grass.
But if you head down a ravine and over a small hill, this little spot outside Manhattan is different. It’s got a rock formation unlike any others.
“Oh, it’s a rare spot,” says Tom, a Kansas farmer. “There’s only a couple of them in Kansas.”
Tom is talking about his Kimberlite. It’s a rare rock formation that could have diamonds.
“Yes, we find little gems here all the time. You can’t go far without finding them. They’re everywhere.”
The gems include rubies, garnets, and lots of fools gold.
“They say about one in every 200 of these formations has diamonds,” says Tom. “But you never know. I’ve probably got a better chance of retiring on the cattle than on diamonds. And these days, who retires on anything, really.”
Tom has been coming to this little ravine for years. He grew up just a couple of miles away. But 4-H groups, rock hunters and college professors have also been coming here for years as well.
“They did some test drilling here back in, what ’81 or ’82,” says Tom. “It was an outfit out of Colorado. But I guess they really didn’t find diamonds or they would have kept the mineral rights. They gave up the mineral rights.”
Tom is not hopeful of finding diamonds. He continues to tend to his cattle. But, he and professional geologists know, there could be diamonds in these hills.
“Well, I’m not an expert on this particular rock formation,” says Kansas State University Geology Professor, Dr. Matthew Brueseke. “The minerals that you see in these kimberlites are really amazing that they are here.”
Brueseke says he has taken students on field trips to see the formations.
“They are just so rare, and yes, they are in Kansas,” explains Brueseke. “But don’t count on a diamond mine being set up just yet. Roughly one in 200 kimberlite formations will have diamonds.”
Turns out kimberlite formations are from about 90 to 100 miles below the surface, and the rock formation looks live a funnel, or a pipe. Magma comes bubbling up in rare instances. That’s Tom’s field.
“And so the point is basically at the depth where these magmas are sourced, like I said maybe 90 miles or so deep to a hundred miles,” says Brueseke, “That’s the stability field in the earth where you would form diamonds. And so, you’ve got these magmas pulling, potentially diamonds, but certainly garnets and other minerals up with them.”
Tom says he has no plans to go digging for diamonds, but he does chip away at the surface with a hammer.
“Well, you never know.”