Diamonds in the rough
Simpson resident finds local kimberlite in his garage

by Ralph Plath
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Apr 18/97) - It's amazing what you discover when you're cleaning out your house.

Former Fort Simpson educator Orest Watsyk was cleaning out his garage last year when he came across a hefty slab of rock that had been hidden away for more than two decades.

Then he remembered its origin. The rock was found on an island near Fort Simpson by former Thomas Simpson school teacher Wilf Button on a field trip some 20 years ago.

Button was the shop teacher at the time and a collector of precious stones. Often he would take interested people such as Watsyk, who worked as a teacher and principal in Fort Simpson for most of his 25 years in the Deh Cho, out on trips to look for stones.

"It was through Button that I got interest in geology," he explained. Watsyk wasn't on the trip when the rock was found but judging by the smooth cut marks, he figures it was brought to the school to be cut on the slab saw, a common practice for prospectors and geologists at the time, since the school had the best slab saw in the area back then.

Little did anyone know it was a piece of kimberlite -- an igneous rock that often contains diamonds. But last March, while on a visit to Yellowknife, Watsyk saw a kimberlite display at the Northern Heritage Centre.

"I thought, I've got a piece of that," he said.

When Watsyk first found it in his garage, he thought it was a conglomerate -- pebbles and gravel that have been embedded in a cementing material such as clay.

Watsyk said he thinks the piece was transported from the East with the last glacial ice flow thousand of years ago.

It's one of the reasons BHP and other companies have been exploring for diamonds from the Blackwater Lake area up to Deline and eastwards.

"I didn't care about the rock then, but 20 years later it's gaining significance," he said.

Watsyk said the piece of kimberlite and others he said have been found in the area over the years, proves there's justification for mining companies searching for diamonds in this neck of the woods.

Watsyk decided not to take the kimberlite with him to his new home in High Prairie, Alta., where he moved last week. Instead, the piece will be on display at the Fort Simpson Visitors Centre, along with other local geological finds.

But one question remains for Watsyk: "Where is the rest of the rock?"