A Skolkovo Foundation resident company that has developed a system for detecting large diamonds within kimberlite ores looks set to see mining giant Alrosa among its first customers, the director of science of the foundation’s nuclear technology cluster said this week.

The technology devised by Diamant to detect diamonds using the tagged neutron method carries less risk of damage to the diamond deposits than kimberlite crushing. Photo: Flickr.

Alexander Fertman was speaking at a meeting of the Skolkovo Foundation’s scientific advisory council in Kazan chaired by Nobel laureates Zhores Alferov and Roger Kornberg.

“There’s a very interesting project for detecting diamonds – the company Diamant has received positive test reports from Alrosa at the Lomonosov mine. We expect Alrosa to buy several neutron machines for detecting large diamonds,” he told the meeting.

Diamant uses the tagged neutron method to detect diamonds inside large pieces of kimberlite ore. Currently, kimberlite is crushed to find diamonds, which carries a risk of damaging the precious stones. Diamant’s dry processing technology also significantly reduces energy costs associated with diamond mining, as no water is required in its method.

Diamant was set up in the Moscow region town of Dubna in 2014, and has been a resident of the Skolkovo Foundation since 2015. The company built a prototype of its system using a grant provided by the foundation.

The Lomonosov mine in Russia’s northern Arkhangelsk region is one of the biggest in the European part of Russia. Alrosa, which is partially state-owned, is one of the world’s biggest diamond miners.

Speaking at the meeting of the scientific advisory council, Fertman also said that Skolkovo residents had begun supplying their products and technologies to Rosatom, and that the state nuclear energy corporation plans to open several startups at Skolkovo.

“There are not yet any Rosatom startups at the foundation, but its deputy director Vyacheslav Pershukov has promised that several will appear this year,” he said.

The scientific advisory council also heard about the success stories of Skolkovo’s energy-efficient technologies cluster from its operational director, Oleg Pertsovsky. He cited the example of the founder of Skolkovo resident RRT Global

Skolkovo residents have begun supplying their products and technologies to Rosatom, the state nuclear energy corporation. 

“One of the founders of RRT sold a small part of his share – far from a controlling stake – for more than $1 million,” Pertsovsky said. “So one of the developers has become a dollar millionaire, and most interesting of all, he intends to use that money to launch a new project that is also applying to become a Skolkovo resident,” he said.

RRT Global, which works on developing oil refining technologies, also has the support of international company KBR, he said.

“RRT has signed a partnership agreement with one of the biggest producers of petrochemical equipment in the world: KBR. RRT hasn’t sold its license – that will remain with RRT – but KBR will promote it around the world, guaranteeing its turnover,” said Pertsovsky. “KBR only has a few such partners, including Shell and BP,” he added.

RRT has been a resident of the Skolkovo Foundation since 2011, and has in that time received two grants: In 2012, for the construction of a demo system, and in 2014 for setting up production of high-octane petrol components.  

During the two-day scientific advisory council meeting in Kazan, capital of Russia’s republic of Tatarstan, the republic’s head, Rustam Minnikhanov, met with council members.

Tatarstan is a successful centre of industry and technology, being home to a number of petrochemical and machine-building enterprises, as well as truckmakers, aviation companies and manufacturing plants. It is also home to several technoparks and a special economic zone.