Diamonds and cat litter

Friday, November 24, 2000

Estimated values in $US Billions (1998 data).

One billion dollars worth of mined diamonds translates into $7 billion dollars of value-added benefits.

Canada has a modest value-added industry in the form of diamond cutting facilities in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and the Northwest Territories. Today polished Canadian diamonds are in great demand throughout the world. These diamonds are "politically the cleanest" diamonds available today. Canadian diamonds are not tainted with oppression, slavery or armed conflict. 

Cat litter loot

At a conservative estimate, there are over 75 million cats in the United States. There are more cats than Democrats or Republicans! Most of those cats will be house trained to use a cat litter tray which makes demands on their owners each week as they do their weekly shopping. Have you ever thought what is the bulky material in those paper sacks?

The bags contain a mixture of more absorbent clays loosely termed bentonite and fullers earth. Directly or indirectly, the clays are formed by volcanic activity (fine volcanic ash fall) or the metamorphic change of minerals such as mica. The important property they possess is ability to absorb moisture and odour without becoming `sloppy.' The best remain granular; the poorer ones become sticky or expand when wet. The main use of these clays is as drilling muds for the oil industry, sealing water wells and as a filler.

About one million tonnes are used for cat litter. The main source areas are the Gulf Coast and Georgia. The amount taken for the litter trade is increasing because the product can be sold for 20 times the dollar rate compared with other industrial uses. (excerpt from a Geology Today article, Geology and Life: Litter Loot. July August 2000).

Darryl Long of Laurentian University notes as a result of his work on the extensive kitty-litter deposits of China (a palygorskite - montmorillonite mixture of clumping pet litter) he became aware of a potentially limited health concern for all acicular clay minerals as stimulants of respiratory diseases. This apparently stems from the tendency of all fine grained acicular minerals to penetrate the linings of the lung at right angles, providing a potential irritant (like asbestos) which can become the sight of secondary infection. This should be of no concern to users of cheap-non clumping clays which do not contain palygorskite or sepiolite and consequently do not remove odours effectively. It should be of limited concern to owners of cats who use clumping litter with a high dust component unless their cats spend an excessive amount of time digging in the litter-tray. A well formed litter should not affect the cat. Those which powder easily under normal use should be avoided.

Darryl agrees that the mark up on these clays is immense. When he examined this phenomena these clays were about $47 tonne, which on re-packaging is about $1100, With this kind of ore value, and limited treatment costs, why would anyone bother to look for gold?


Long, D.G.F., and others, 1996. Drill Mud or Kitty Litter ? The origin and potential use of palygorskite from the Tertiary Xiacowan Formation of Jiansu and Anhui Provinces of China. Ontario Petroleum Institute, London, Ontario, Canada, Proceedings v. 34. Technical Paper No 7, 13 pp.

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