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Abstracts of the 26th annual Tucson Mineralogical Symposium: China!

The Development and Future Potential of China as a Supplier of Mineral Specimens

Rock H. Currier

13100 Spring Street

Baldwin Park, CA 91706

With the fall of the Iron Curtain, specimens began flooding out of former Soviet-bloc countries and China. While it has proven difficult to export specimens from Russia, China has taken to the export of mineral specimens with a passion that shows no signs of diminishing.

The initial supply of mineral specimens from China was centered around the various Chinese Geological Survey branch offices, especially in Hunan province. The supply increased as survey personnel quit their government jobs and began buying and selling specimens on their own, thus capitalizing on the greater financial opportunities afforded by dealing in minerals. Other miners and geologically trained individuals soon joined the fray and now China is one of the largest if not the largest supplier of mineral specimens in the world.

China has an appreciation of minerals and stones that goes back to dynastic times. In the Forbidden City in Peking, the emperor's private garden prominently features cave formations. In one part of the garden, there is a small hill with grottos built of cave formations as well as a display of beautiful river-sculpted rocks. Today, the Chinese continue to cherish cave formations and river rocks.

Although cave explorers in the United States and Europe are strictly prohibited from collecting in caves, the Chinese routinely strip them. Containers of cave formations and river rocks are regularly exported to the United States and are purchased predominantly by Chinese Americans.

Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, has become the center of China's mineral specimen trade. The quantity of Chinese specimens being exported to the West and the number of Westerners going there to buy specimens continue to increase, assuring China's future as a source of mineral specimens.

Mineral and Stone Collecting in China

Guanghua Liu

AAA Mineral International

Franzoesische Allee 24

72072 Tuebingen, Germany

The Chinese have not traditionally collected minerals in the Western sense. Rock and stone collecting, on the other hand, is quite popular and can be traced back to 200 BC when the royal families sought and preserved rare stones. Besides jade or other stone carvings, the Chinese collect stones and rocks that show uncommon shapes, colors and structures or that exhibit unusual properties. Unlike Western collectors, the Chinese are not particularly interested in the scientific significance of their collections or in crystal perfection. They instead focus on a stone's aesthetic/sculptural appeal and on odd configurations, as well as any suggestive shapes having potential links to legend, ancient events, famous people, religions or philosophies. The Chinese do not collect the stones themselves; rather they collect a physical representation of the ideas that the stones imply. Rock collecting in China is, therefore, regarded as a cultural endeavor.

Collectible stones are generally grouped into one of four categories: rare stones, imaging stones, ornamental stone and writing-room stone. The first three groups can include any attractive or strange looking stones or can be a piece of rock from a remote or historic location. A pebble or cobble with graphic veins or laminations that form a special Chinese character or an image of an animal, a historic figure, etc. would fit into these categories as would a piece of rock shaped like a Buddha.

Writing-room stones combine typical oriental culture with natural stones and the art of cutting. Writing-room stones include ink stones used to grind inks; paper stones used to press paper; pen stones used to hold pens; and chop seal stones used as signature stamps.

Shops selling collectible stones to the Chinese can be seen all over China, especially in big cities and in tourist spots. In the Chinese stone market, bigger is generally better and more expensive. In recent years, some Chinese have begun to take up Western-style mineral collecting, with more and more stone lovers expressing an interest in and passion for minerals, crystals and fossils.

Mineralogy of the Yaogangxian Tungsten Mine, Chenzhou Prefecture, Hunan, China

Berthold Ottens

Klingenbrunn-Bahnhof 24

94518, Spiegelau, Germany


Robert B. Cook

Department of Geology and Geography

Auburn University

Auburn, AL 36849

The Yaogangxian mine lies within the Nanling metallogenic belt of southern Hunan, China, an area long known as the world's richest tungsten province. The mine exploits a series of mineralized quartz veins and associated tungsten-rich skarns on Yaogangxian Mountain, located in the extreme southeastern part of Hunan Province approximately 50 kilometers southeast of the city of Chenzhou. In recent years the mine has become a prolific mineral specimen producer of considerable note.

At least 310 mineral species have been identified in tungsten deposits of the Nanling belt; these include diverse suites of tin, beryllium, silver, rare-earth, and base-metal minerals, in addition to those of tungsten. At Yaogangxian, 32 species, some of which occur in world-class specimens, are of particular interest to collectors. Fluorite in both purple and green crystals occurs in local abundance, often in association with well-developed, lustrous ferberite crystals. Arsenopyrite is an abundant accessory mineral and is common in groups of sharply developed crystals. Some of the world's finest and certainly largest bournonite crystals have been recovered. Ferberite, the dominant tungsten mineral of the vein systems, forms spectacular groups of somewhat tabular crystals, commonly with transparent quartz crystals. The locality is well known for the unusual bertrandite-rhodochrosite association, many specimens of which have reached the collector market. Other well-crystallized carbonates include calcite and manganoan calcite. Fine specimens containing sharply formed stannite and bornite crystals occur locally. Helvite, apatite, topaz and molybdenite are of only rare occurrence but are found occasionally in collectible specimens. Scheelite, tetrahedrite, cassiterite, pyrrhotite and fibrous sulfosalts including jamesonite and boulangerite are locally important and have been collected specifically for their specimen value.

In Search of World-Class Specimens in China

Georg Gebhard

Grossenseifen, Germany

Over the course of the centuries during which Westerners have been collecting minerals, distinctively twinned cinnabar was the only world-class mineral known from China. About 15 years ago, the world began to awaken to China's mineral potential as stunning specimens of realgar and orpiment, clusters of azurite and huge stibnite crystals up to 1 meter long arrived at international mineral shows.

Over the ensuing years, these specimens have been followed by more than 30 "best of species," including orange scheelite crystals to 20 cm, lustrous black cassiterite crystals to 15 cm, ferberite, arsenopyrite, fluorite of all colors, pyromorphite, mimetite, and rarities such as kermesite, helvite, stannite, kesterite and even common minerals such as calcite and quartz.

Although the number of Chinese mineral species on the market unimpressively numbers less than 50, the large perfect crystals (e.g. bournonite), the number of habits (e.g. calcite) and associations (e.g. garnet) have been striking. In a very short time, Chinese minerals have thus impacted mineral collecting and the mineral business as strongly as those from any other country.

Although there are countless mines throughout China, the poor knowledge of minerals by the indigenous Chinese, their even poorer knowledge of deposits of collectible minerals and how to mine them, the difficulty of the language and the poor infrastructure make locating mineral specimens near their source complicated, if not impossible. Mineral dealers in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, who were previously professional geoscientists, are now the main suppliers of minerals.

These, however, are not China's only suppliers. Antique markets in tourist centers can also be important sources for new finds. Many fabulous specimens of kermesite, pyromorphite and mimetite were originally found in street markets and offered for sale by people who knew neither the mineral nor the locality. Although no new occurrences have surfaced over the last two years, in this huge country, new sensational finds are virtually guaranteed.

The Xuebaoding Beryl-Scheelite Vein Deposit, China

Berthold Ottens

Spiegelau, Germany

Located in Sichuan's Pingwu county, the Xuebaoding beryl-scheelite vein deposit (32[degrees]26'N, 104[degrees]31'E) is famous for producing superb scheelite, beryl and cassiterite specimens. Xuebaoding Mountain (5,588 meters) is one of the highest mountain peaks in southwestern Sichuan Province. Though regional geological research has been minimal, the deposit is inferred to be part of a regional metallogenic province of Au-Ag, Cu-Pb-Zn and W-Sn-Be.

Structurally, the Xuebaoding deposit is part of the sub-Pankouwan Dome, which lies north of Longmenshan, west of the Huyuagua fault and east of the Xuebaoding Dome of the western Yangtze Paraplatform. The orebody itself is part of a muscovite-rich quartz vein in arizonite.

Inclusion analyses suggest homogenization temperatures varied between 147[degrees] and 343[degrees] Celsius, low fluid salinity and a mineralization depth of between 160 and 280 meters. The deposit dates from the Yanshan epoch 187 million years ago.

The deposits are found at altitudes of nearly 4,500 meters. About 70 people are currently working the gravel for scheelite ore, and approximately 30 people are employing simple mining techniques to extract what they can from a small number of short underground mines.

In addition to the well-known minerals (such as orange scheelite, tabular beryl in various colors and black twinned cassiterite) produced at Xuebaoding, the deposit yields fine associated specimens of quartz, fluorite and feldspar. On occasion, interesting species such as euclase, apatite, topaz and kesterite with mushistonite have also been found.

A Mineral Excursion to China: 2004

Jeffrey A. Scovil

PO Box 7773

Phoenix, AZ 85011

At the Munich mineral show in 2003 Dr. Guanghua Liu told me of his plans to write a book on the minerals of the province of Hunan, China. He invited me to go with him on one of his research trips and of course I accepted. Dr. Liu was to gather more data on the mines, minerals and mining history of the province, while I would take photos of the mines and region.

I flew to Beijing on April 26th, 2004 where I met Dr. Liu and then together we flew to Changsha, Hunan. The typical day began by renting a car and driver, then driving out into the countryside over usually very bad roads through beautiful countryside to some mining area. At a number of mines we were able to go underground and see the working as well as photograph ore zones and pockets in situ. Some of the better-known mines included Shimen, Xianghuapu, Yaogangxian, Leiping and Shuikoushan. After exploring the mines, local dealers were visited and specimens were bought. In Changsha the mineral dealers' street was visited as well, and we visited a mineral museum in Guiyang.

We visited 12 different mines gathering much useful data for the book, which should be published some time in 2005. It will be illustrated with a mix of mine photos by both Dr. Liu and myself, and with mineral specimen photos from my archives.

China's Underground Frontiers and Comparative Observations on Cave Mineral Deposits

Kevin Downey

Northampton, Massachusetts

The past decade has seen an unprecedented worldwide increase in exploration, major discoveries and new ideas about the development and alteration of minerals in natural cave environments. Caves represent perhaps the best opportunity we have to utilize a natural laboratory for the observation and detailed study of mineralization under many different conditions. Along with studies made of "normal" carbonate bedrock solution caves, work in hydrothermal, sulfuric, sulfidic, high C[O.sub.2], and even more exotic environments has resulted in some impressive new findings. In addition to investigations of Karst and cave environments, studies have been performed in hydrothermal environments under high sulfate, sulfide and carbonate activities. Very small differences in the conditions of deposition of minerals such as calcite/aragonite yield remarkably different habits, which also act as a useful way of evaluating paleo-environments. Cave studies have improved our understanding of micro-organic processes and influences on deposition and crystal development long thought to be entirely chemical in nature. While much remains to be done, the current state of knowledge is rapidly expanding. Chinese caves, in particular, include many examples of sulfide and sulfate deposits related to complex hydrothermal, acidic and biological mechanisms. Given that the majority of the world's limestone formations and karst topographies are in China, this country represents a very rich frontier.

It has also become clear that many caves worldwide preserve incredibly interesting data that may forever be compromised or lost if great care is not taken to preserve them. In this context the idea of mineralogical study "in situ" is stressed as the key to understanding the details of exactly how and why minerals crystallize and take various habits, as opposed to simply listing and describing them.

Aside from the obvious reasons for preservation of caves for their aesthetic values and for water quality, the potential for mineralogical studies is immense. Considering that development worldwide is fast altering and destroying many important caves, the current explorations in China represent a very time-sensitive opportunity.


Updated every week


Saturday, February 12, 2005

[10:00 am to 10:45]

The Development and Future Potential of China as a Supplier of Mineral Specimens

Rock H. Currier

[10:45 to 11:15]

Mineral and Stone Collecting in China

Guanghua Liu

[11:15 to 11:45]

Mineralogy of the Yaogangxian Tungsten Mine, Chenzhou Prefecture, Hunan, China

Berthold Ottens & Robert B. Cook

[11:45 to 12:15]

In Search of World-Class Specimens in China

Georg Gebhard


[13:30 to 14:00]

The Xuebaoding Beryl-Scheelite Vein Deposit, China

Berthold Ottens

[14:00 to 14:45]

A Mineral Excursion to China: 2004

Jeffrey A. Scovil

[14:45 to 15:30]

China's Underground Frontiers and Comparative Observations on Cave Mineral Deposits

Kevin Downey
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Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Previous Article:Microminerals.
Next Article:Abstracts of new mineral descriptions.

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