THE BEAD OF SWEAT FORMED JUST BELOW HIS HAIRLINE. IT SLOWLY TRICKLED DOWN HIS forehead to his eyebrow where it paused briefly, before gathering momentum as it ran down the side of his face. It reached his chin where it coalesced with other drops before finally launching itself into his lap. Beads of sweat were appearing on his arms, but they evaporated almost as soon as they had formed. The shirt on his back was pressed against the seat of the Landcruiser and was completely soaked. The temperature was 46oC in the shade, but the young man was oblivious to the heat.
His hands rested on the steering wheel, holding a pink stone between his thumb and forefinger. It looked like a piece of coloured quartz, but as he held it up to the light, it had a striking adamantine lustre. A crease began to form in the side of his face where another bead of sweat began to appear. The creases became deeper and longer and other creases also began to form on either side of his eyes into faint crow’s feet. Then Andrew Robertson chuckled to himself.
The Toyota was parked on a low hill overlooking the vast expanse of the Pilbara, an area the size of Germany in the north of Western Australia. A shallow open pit was laid out before him but was inexorably growing wider and deeper as massive P&H shovels and giant Haulpak trucks chewed away at the rock. Each truck slowly moved over 300 tonnes of rock out of the pit on every trip, some carrying a light coloured quartzite rock to a large waste dump north of the open pit, whereas a few others carried a darker coloured olivine-rich rock to a huge crusher located near the southern rim of the pit.
The machines were exposing a lamproite pipe, a volcanic intrusion over a billion years old which had formed in the upper mantle and been forced up through the Earth’s crust at incredible pressures aeons ago. Drilling exploration had established that this lamproite pipe extended to at least 500 metres below the present pit floor and probably extended a further 100 kilometres or more into the fiery depths of the volcanically active upper mantle. This open pit was called Mt Robertson and was named after the man who found it in the 1970s, Charlie Robertson.
Andrew Robertson had returned from London where he’d attended his dad’s wedding to Catherine Walker. After finishing his degree in mining and economics at Sydney University, he’d gained years of valuable mining experience at Mt Robertson but it had been a traumatic time. His dad had been beaten up and nearly died and now had a permanent limp in his left leg. The fledgeling Mt Robertson had been completely destroyed and twenty-four men had been murdered. The police had never found the culprits, but his dad was certain two South African murderers, Jan Kruger and Marius Botha were responsible. Interpol was searching for them, but they’d gone to ground.
He turned the ignition key of the Toyota, he should go and ring his dad and give him some good news for a change. As an eight-year old, Andrew Robertson had found the very first diamond at Mt Robertson on a field trip with his mum and dad. Now, twenty-two years later, he was holding the largest rough diamond they’d ever discovered. It was almost certainly the largest pink diamond in the world.