How Galicia has ended up discovering a new mineral unprecedented in the world thanks to three friends

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There are those who dedicate themselves to going out to the fields on weekends in search of mushrooms, those who take rods and fishing tackle and those, like José Carlos Rodríguez, Moisés Núñez and Manuel Cerviño, three friends who are passionate about mineralogy, put on their boots and they tramp the field to marvel at the rocks in their path. His is not a rare or isolated hobby, but his results are. And this is because of what they have achieved: to discover a new ore in Galicia.

What they have discovered is “an aluminum phosphate monohydrate from the Kieserite group that crystallizes as monoclinic C2/c”. A sample with a “microgranular and almost white tone” appearance that makes it difficult to identify. “It goes unnoticed within pegmatic bodies and it is easy to confuse it at a macroscopic level with plaxioclases or other light-colored minerals”, explains the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC), which has been commissioned to reveal the finding.

When choosing a name, its discoverers have used toponymy and have chosen to keep the place where they located the sample, Mount Ermelo, in Moaña, a town located in the province of Pontevedra, Galicia. Result: they have baptized it “ermeloíta”.

A historic find

Ermeloite Electron Microscopy 1 0

To identify it as a new mineral, of course, he has not arrived with the visual acuity of the three friends. Technicians from the University of Compostela examined the sample in their laboratories using calorimetric techniques, spectrometry and X-ray fluorescence, among other procedures.

Now, after an exhaustive analysis, the ermeloíta has achieved the recognition of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) as new species. Its reference locality is Monte Ermelo. And its type specimen, the one examined in USC. The snippet is not flashy just to add a new name to the already extensive IMA family; it is also due to its characteristics and historical value.

The sample of ermeloíta preserved in Compostela weighs just a few milligrams. In Moaña in fact, precise The country, only one “nodule within a pegmatite” has been found, with no other samples in the vicinity. Its size is in fact so tiny that the USC itself recognizes in a statement that, at least for now, it is very difficult to study its practical uses.

“The fragment is small, so it is difficult to infer possible applications industrial or technological, although it is not ruled out that from this discovery it will be possible to identify this mineral species in similar environments in other geological formations in the world”.

The ermeloíta also stands out for its historical importance. At least in Galicia, where you have to go back more than a century to find similar news. “In Galicia, three minerals were discovered throughout history: morenosite, cervantite and bolivarite. They were all found in the mid-nineteenth century.” Óscar Lantes Suárez contributes, from the Unit of Archaeometry and Characterization of Materials of the USC. Moaña’s new find adds a fourth name to the list.

“The discovery has historical repercussions because so few minerals were discovered from Galicia and reinforce the importance of systematic research carried out in the field of mineralogy, especially in the current geopolitical context, in which the need for strategic raw materials is critical”, abounds Lantes Suarez.

If you want to examine with your own eyes what ermeloite is like, you can do so in about a year, during the summer of 2023, at the mineralogy exhibition that will host the College of Fonseca, in Santiago de Compostela. After this “coming out” the sample will be permanently deposited in the Museum of Natural History of the USC, which will be in charge of its custody.

Pictures | University of Santiago de Compostela (USC)

There are those who dedicate themselves to going out to the fields on weekends in search of mushrooms, those who…

There are those who dedicate themselves to going out to the fields on weekends in search of mushrooms, those who…

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