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May-June 2011

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Media Reviews: May/June 2011

Displays of Nature: History, Minerals & Crystals of Utah's Bingham Canyon Copper Mine by Jerry North. Published by the author ( 65 pages; 2010; $15 plus shipping (softbound).

This is an excellent example of a self-published document that is clearly a contribution to the mineralogical literature of one of America's greatest mines. It was written by a geologist who likely has the greatest modern knowledge of the mineralogy of this site by virtue of his job with Kennecott Copper Corporation, a job that included the responsibility of collecting both unusual and representative specimens for company and public-relation purposes. The book, which was edited by Janet Clifford, is comprehensive in scope and is illustrated with both historical and Jeff Scovil mineral photographs.

Displays of Nature opens with a series of introductory sections that include acknowledgements, a time-line table that lists the main events in the mine's history beginning with the discovery of mineralization by Erastus Bingham and sons in 1848, a well-written mine history, a discussion of the advances in ore haulage at a site where moving vast amounts of ore and waste has been the name of the game, a one-page summary of how copper is extracted from Bingham Canyon ore, and a summary description of the mine's geology. Next follows a brief but important section that places the mine's “crystal locations” and related mineral occurrences into the context of mine geology; it contains a simplified geologic map that shows important localities with respect to overall ore deposit zoning.

The meat of the book begins on page 16 where one finds the presentation of Bingham Canyon minerals, a group of more than fifty species beginning with apophyllite and finishing with wavellite. The most important from the collector's standpoint are given individually in alphabetical order. Each is illustrated with photographs of specimens from Jerry North's collection, supplemented with a few sentences about the mineral's occurrences in the mine. There are some pleasant surprises here, for even though one must suspect that this monster copper deposit surely has produced exceptional specimens during its long history, few are ever seen at mineral shows or in collections. Indeed, the fine apophyllite crystals with small okenite balls pictured on the first page of the minerals section begin the surprises. There are good enargites, unusual fluorites, odd galenas, unusual golds, nice molybdenite crystals, good rhodochrosite and tetrahedrite specimens, very fine vivianite, and surprisingly good wavellite. These are in addition to the exceptional pyrite specimens for which the mine is relatively well known. Missing in extraordinary specimens are such familiar copper species as malachite, azurite, covellite, and cuprite, although these minerals do occur there as do rather typical native copper specimens. Interesting species rare to the deposit include calaverite, nukundamite, rhodonite, foshagite, anglesite, and realgar, to name only a few. Although the mine is not noted for unusual gem materials, good turquoise has been collected and is included in the section containing individual mineral descriptions.

The book closes with a final few pages of historical photographs and a list of references. The references are interestingly divided into printed works and websites, a practice that makes considerable sense.

This is an excellent reference for anyone interested in the specimen-producing potential of porphyry copper deposits. More stand-alone publications such as this are needed, and North is to be complimented for taking the time and going to the expense of putting it together. The book is certainly recommended for any serious mineral collector's library.

Robert B. Cook
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Pocket Guide—Rocks and Minerals of Southern Africa by Bruce Cairncross. Random House Struik ( 160 pages; 2010; R$100 (US$15) (softbound).

This interesting book is a condensed version of Cairncross's earlier Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals of Southern Africa, reviewed previously in Rocks & Minerals (Cook 2005). Like its big brother, the present volume presents a well-illustrated summary of the rocks and minerals of common or unusual occurrence in the countries that comprise southernmost Africa. It is subdivided into two fundamental parts, that describing the minerals (pages 12–121), followed by the section on rocks (pages 122–153). The minerals are presented alphabetically and the rocks by type within the three fundamental categories—igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. The book has a useful glossary, bibliography, and index.

The book's short introduction contains a brief discussion of minerals in general with a subsection on gemstones. There follows a short section on the identification techniques used for both minerals and rocks. Next come a few paragraphs on how to use the book, including a key to icons found throughout. The introduction closes with a section on mineral groups and a simple table of the chemical elements, including those that do not occur naturally.

The meat of the book begins on page 14 with a description and discussion of occurrences of the region's first important mineral, aegirine. Most minerals are discussed on a single page, although multiple pages are devoted to important species such as gold, diamond, and quartz, for example. Fundamental data including composition, crystal system, hardness, specific gravity, streak, and luster are given. Descriptive information includes general group designation, a few comments on the most common characteristics, and information about features unique to the species. A short section on uses is given for some minerals. Occurrences are by necessity quite brief and generally limited to the best known in terms of specimen quality, abundance, or economic importance. Each mineral is illustrated with one or more color photographs.

The somewhat shorter section on rocks includes a description of the rock cycle followed by a systematic description of the important southern Africa rock types. Each rock is discussed in terms of color, composition, use, and occurrence. Fundamental information important to the understanding of each rock family is given where appropriate, including Bowen's reaction series for igneous rocks and grain-size classification ranges for clastic sedimentary rocks, for example. Each rock type is illustrated by color photographs that include both rock samples and outcrops.

This guide is absolutely full of useful information. One of its greatest strengths is its color illustrations, many of which are by Bruce Cairncross of specimens in his collection. Its compact size (approximately 7 × 4 inches) is designed to make it a perfect fit for most coat pockets, and it is certainly recommended for collectors contemplating a tour of southern Africa. Hopefully, it will be available in airports and major hotels throughout the region.


1. Cook, R. B. (2005) Media review—Field guide to rocks and minerals of southern Africa. Rocks & Minerals 80:4, pp. 291-92.

Robert B. Cook
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Roadside Geology of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. by John Means. Mountain Press Publishing, PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806. 368 pages; 2010; $24 (softbound).

This is the latest book in the popular Roadside Geology series. It follows much the same format as its many predecessors in this series, but this edition is in full color from the Atlantic beaches of the Delmarva Peninsula to the heart of the folded Appalachians, more than a billion years of geologic history and tectonics are presented in clearly understandable text and easy-to-understand color graphics and cross-sections. I am impressed with the well-chosen color photographs and the clear, succinct nature of the colored diagrams. The geologic cross-sections, diagrams, and maps are easy to visualize and not overburdened with details.

Background on plate tectonics, geologic time, and fundamental rock types are clearly covered in the introduction. A detailed geologic history of the east-central North American continent follows. The historical discussion takes the reader through 1 billion years of continental evolution involving four major mountain-building events. The historical overview is well illustrated with color tectonic cross-sections.

Detailed geologic maps and color photographs clearly depict the abundant geologic structures and spectacular exposures throughout the Valley and Ridge, Piedmont, Triassic/Jurassic basins, and the Coastal Plain provinces of Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Delaware. I like the thirty-five road guides covering most of the major highways cutting across the structural provinces and along the Delmarva coast. Each of these would provide the geology enthusiast an interesting field trip. Notable locations such as Harpers Ferry, the Sidling Hill road cut, Chimney Rock, Great Falls, and many others are covered and pictured in detail.

Coastal processes and the shoreline response to these forces are nicely illustrated along with an extensive explanation of coastal features. John Means was even brave enough to pick up the long-running discussion on the origin of Carolina Bays. The coastal dynamics of tidal inlets, spit growth, and barrier island systems are exemplified by well-known, accessible locations along the Delmarva Peninsula. Selected examples are given for wave refraction, erosion, and deposition at Indian River Inlet, the rapid spit accretion at Cape Henlopen on the south side of Delaware Bay, and the ever-present landward and upward migration of the barrier island systems from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island.

Means and the talented illustrators have done a superior job presenting a diversity of geologic features and rock types, spanning major geologic provinces and 1 billion years of Earth history. Of all the books in this popular series, this is perhaps my favorite.

Lance E. Kearns
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia

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