Diamond News

(This article first appeared May 2017)

Human activity created 208 new mineral species - Nealite

Nealite [Pb4Fe(AsO3)2Cl4·2H2O] From an ancient slag site in Greece, formed by slag meeting seawater. Credit RRUFF.

For the first time, more than 200 mineral species have been identified that originated either principally or exclusively due to human activities – primarily as a result of mining.

The study, led by Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institution for Science published by American Mineralogist bolsters the argument to officially designate a new geological time interval distinguished by the pervasive impact of human activities called the Anthropocene Epoch.

Tinnunculite has been determined to be a product of hot gases reacting with the excrement of the Eurasian kestrel at a burning coal mine in Kopeisk, Russia

According to the paper, the 208 catalogued mineral species originating from human actions represent almost 4% of the 5,208 minerals (defined as a naturally occurring crystalline compound that has a unique combination chemical composition and crystal structure) officially recognized by the International Mineralogical Association.

The majority of the recognized minerals originated in ore dumps, through the weathering of slag, formed in tunnel walls, mine water or timbers, or through mine fires. Six were found on the walls of smelters and three formed in a geothermal piping system.

According to the authors, some minerals formed due to human actions can also occur naturally: Three in that category were discovered on corroded lead artifacts aboard a Tunisian shipwreck, two on bronze artifacts in Egypt, and two on tin artifacts in Canada. Four were discovered at prehistoric sacrificial burning sites in the Austrian mountains.

Dr. Hazen, who co-wrote the paper with Edward Grew of the University of Maine, and Marcus Origlieri and Robert Downs of the University of Arizona,...

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