Rare minerals, as the name suggests, have a scant presence on planet Earth. However, scientists have discovered that these minerals, which include edoylerite, abelsonite and cobaltomenite, are what make the Earth such a unique place to be.
According to Jonathan Amos’ report for the BBC, these scant minerals may occur in remote caves with no sunshine reach, grow from volcanic eruptions and disappear when the first rains fall or at times be secreted by microbes under pressure.
“It’s these rare minerals that tell us a lot about how planet Earth is different from the Moon, Mars, Mercury, where the same common minerals occur,” Carnegie Institution’s Dr. Robert Hazen, who is also a co-author of the study, told the BBC. “But it is these rare minerals that make planet Earth special.”
2,500 mineral species are considered rare
In terms of determining which minerals are the rarest on the planet, the researchers took into account up to 2,500 minerals. This collection was based on the abundance as well as the location of the minerals on the planet.
The Earth’s supply, usually, is made of up of the most abundant minerals, among them mica, cobalt, feldspar and quartz. The list comprises of about 100 minerals, but according to researchers, the planet has 5,000 different minerals. The figure included in the study was arrived at based on the rare traits of the minerals.
The characteristics considered here include the ability to form under extreme circumstances, ability to disappear or dissolve quickly, place of occurrence and finally, the composition of the mineral. As far as the latter case, the mineral with the rarest elements is considered the rarest.
One mineral that perfectly meets these conditions, which the researchers behind it could only get a few milligrams, is fingerite. It occurs in El Salvador when correct proportions of copper and vanadium come together. However, it dissolves right after the first rainstorm. The fingerite mineral forms from gases coming from the active Izalco Volcano.
According to scientists, the rare occurrence of these minerals doesn’t mean they don’t have a role to play in their ecosystems. In fact, the discovery that they play some role is what prompted them into exploring more about the rare species.
Even though they seem so insignificant, Dr. Hazen still believes that “they are the key to the diversity of planet Earth’s near-surface environs.”
The discovery only opens doors for more research to be done regarding these rare occurrences. Of the 2,500 species included, none of them appears in more than five locations. As a result, the research team recommends that these minerals ought to be hunted down because they hold fundamental information regarding the construction of planet Earth.
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