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March-April 2011

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The Remarkable Occurrence of Rare Secondary Tellurium Minerals of Otto Mountain near Baker, California, Including Seven New Species

A mere six years ago Otto Mountain was completely unknown to the mineralogical world. That changed on 2 January 2004 when one of the authors (RMH) found some small bright green crystals associated with native gold at the Aga mine on Otto Mountain. Within a week, he identified the green crystals as khinite using SEM-EDS, and in association he also identified wulfenite and the mineral that would later be described as phosphohedyphane (Kampf, Steele, and Jenkins 2006). Housley immediately shared this information with several other serious micromineral collectors. He also showed slides of these minerals at the Southern California Friends of Mineralogy Mineral Localities Symposium, held at Shoshone, California, in late March 2004. Joseph Marty and Richard Thomssen were at this symposium and became interested enough to join in an exploration of Otto Mountain the following day.

Marty returned to Otto Mountain several times during the following year. Otto Mountain is pockmarked with small workings, so there was much to explore. Around mid-June of 2004, Marty discovered another concentration of secondary Te minerals in a small unnamed working. Because there was a bird's nest containing a baby bird just inside the short drift, he dubbed this site the “Bird Nest drift.”

Robert M. Housley has a PhD in physics, but he has had a strong lifelong interest in mineralogy and is an avid field collector. He is currently a Visiting Associate in Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech where his analytical work has served to identify many rare minerals and to characterize several new ones.

Anthony R. Kampf, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, received his PhD in mineralogy and crystallography from the University of Chicago in 1976. He has been curator in the Mineral Sciences Department of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County since 1977. He has described more than fifty new minerals and is the U.S. delegate to the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature, and Classification (CNMNC) of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA).

Stuart J. Mills received his PhD in crystallography, mineralogy, and geochronology from the University of Melbourne (Australia) in 2007 and is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Mineralogy and Crystallography at the University of British Columbia. He has described nearly thirty new minerals and is secretary of the CNMNC of the IMA.

Joseph Marty is an avid field collector and a member of the Micromounters Hall of Fame. He has discovered several new minerals (one of which, martyite, is named in his honor), has previously contributed to this magazine, and enjoys mineral photography.

Brent Thorne is an avid field collector and regular contributor to with more than eleven hundred photographs posted on the Mindat website. He collected and provided specimens for the description of thorneite and the new mineral plumbophyllite from the nearby Blue Bell claims.

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