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Study details newly discovered mineral merelaniite

Further study of merelaniite and its intricate internal structure may eventually yield scientific applications.

By
Brooks Hays
The newly discovered mineral merelaniite features an intricate structure of shiny, spindle-like whiskers. It is named for the mining region in Tanzania where it was found. Photo by Michigan Tech/John Jaszczak
The newly discovered mineral merelaniite features an intricate structure of shiny, spindle-like whiskers. It is named for the mining region in Tanzania where it was found. Photo by Michigan Tech/John Jaszczak

HOUGHTON, Mich., Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Most seemingly novel minerals turn out to be variations of existing minerals, but merelaniite is unlike any other.

Researchers named the new chemical compound for the Merelani mining district of Tanzania, a region rich in rare minerals.

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"The Merelani district has been famous since the late 1960s for the blue gem variety of zoisite known as tanzanite, but this is really a mineral collector's paradise and an exciting place to look for new minerals," John Jaszczak, a physics professor at Michigan Tech, explained in a news release. "The importance of the area is the reason we wanted to give tribute to the miners and name merelaniite for the district."

Before submitting their find to the International Mineralogical Association and their Commission on New Minerals, Jaszczak and his colleagues put the compound through a rigorous set of tests. Scientists from around the globe helped detail the mineral's chemical composition and structure.

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Their analysis confirmed merelaniite as unique.

"It is one thing to find a mineral that is probably new, it is quite another thing to be able to perform all of the required analyses to satisfy the CNMNC for approval of its status and a new name," Jaszczak said.

The team of scientists named and described their discovery in a new paper, published this week in the journal Minerals.

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Further study of merelaniite and its intricate internal structure may eventually yield scientific applications, but for now, researchers are simply appreciating the wonder of their discovery.

"Science is about taking pleasure in finding things out and we're delighted to have uncovered and described this beautiful new mineral," Jaszczak concluded.

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