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May-June 2013

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Media Reviews

Marokko: Mineralien, Bergbau, Abenteuer (Morocco: Minerals, Mining, Adventure), extraLapis No. 42, by Frank de Wit et al. Christian Weise Verlag, Munich, Germany. 98 pages (in German); 2012; €19.80 (softbound).

It is always nice to see a new issue of extraLapis, and issue no. 42 does not disappoint in that respect. Of course, the text is in German, which may be a small inconvenience for some unfamiliar with the language, but North American collectors should be able to get the gist of the story through similarities in mineral names or perhaps via recognition of well-known localities.

The issue is divided into ten sections, none of great length (there are, after all, only 98 pages), but all are sprinkled with excellent and informative photographs. Of the seven authors involved, three have provided two sections each; the others have written one section each. Section 1, “Morocco—Minerals and More,” gives an explanation of why the author (Frank de Wit) likes the country so much and offers sage advice to those who would travel there. He advises tolerance and openness—and packing warm clothing (he was caught twice in Moroccan snowstorms!). His descriptions of the country—northern regions being like southern Spain; the central Atlas Mountains being like Switzerland; the southeast sandy desert having fabulous dunes; and the southwest rocky desert having the Imiter and Bou Azzer mines—read like a tourist pamphlet. He also likes the food and the people, though he does add a cautionary paragraph about dealing with officialdom and the police.

Section 2, “An Overview of Morocco,” is a short introduction to the geology of the region, indicating that it has almost equal representation of Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic rocks, with a scattering of Precambrian along the southern flanks of the mountains.

Section 3, “‘Not only’ Agate in Morocco,” outlines the superb agate specimens that have come from the country in recent years. There is no question that the material is spectacular, and the photographs in this section reflect that; however, in a sense, that is all that it does. The author, Dietrich Mayer, describes each location, its geology, and its agates carefully, but he does not show where it is in Morocco. Fortunately, the geological map of Section 2 does have some of the names mentioned, from Sidi Rahal to Aouli, indicating that the agate comes from an area running from Marrakesh toward the northeast, centrally across the country. Still, a map in that section would have been helpful.

Section 4, “Fluorite from Morocco,” again enchants with photographs of superlative specimens, but it suffers from the same fault as Section 3: locality names abound, but no map is provided. Although it is nice to know that the quality of the specimens is rising because local collectors are learning to wrap them properly, it would have been even better to have a locality map.

Section 5, raises the question “Mint Tea for You, Sir?” Here, author de Wit describes his dealings (over tea!) with local collectors and also his Moroccan collecting adventures. His photograph of a pair of boots sticking from a hole about 50 cm across remind us that those gorgeous vanadinite specimens are not gained without risk. Similarly, his method of retrieving specimens by holding small ones in his mouth is not exactly de rigueur with the safety conscious among us.

Section 6 covers “Silver Amalgam, Silver Wires, and Rare Silver Minerals of the Imiter Mine.” The Imiter mine lies in Precambrian greywacke and black slate on the south side of the central High Atlas Mountains. Its silver production in 2010 was only one percent of world production, but that one percent amounted to 224 tonnes! Imiter silver contains mercury and can have enough to form the amalgam described as kongsbergite. The mine also produces fine wire silver specimens as well as superb micromounts of imiterite, proustite, and xanthoconite.

Section 7, “Silver Memories from Imiter,” is a short piece on collecting in the Imiter mine. It is most notable for its photographs of large (to 30-cm) silver slabs fresh from the rock, but also for the photograph of author Stefan Ansermet, standing while a mine employee checks him with a metal detector for smuggled specimens!

Section 8, “Wind, Sand & Meteorites,” describes a field expedition to the Moroccan West Sahara looking for (and finding) meteorites, which can be recognized as black spots amid the “knife-sharp flints” of the desert floor.

Section 9, “Bou Azer (Bou Azzer)—The Many Colored Cobalt District,” illustrates the fabulous minerals of the area and explains that the “new” name should have only one “z.” Bou Azer lies in south Morocco, in the central Anti-Atlas region with its dark serpentine cliffs rising between rusty, weathered volcanics. The area is some 50 × 10 kilometers (there is a small map!), holds eighty different pits, shafts, and prospects, and produces a shopping list of species that are named here (without formulas) and their occurrences described.

Section 10, “Important Localities in Morocco,” is a listing of the localities producing the finest specimens and what may be found in each. Given alphabetically are twenty-two localities, from Aouli to Zaër-Zaïane, all copiously illustrated with superb photographs.

As I said in the beginning, the primary attraction we have come to expect from extraLapis is the specimen photography, and issue no. 42 does not disappoint in that regard. I am disappointed, however, in the lack of a large, good map of the country. The publication has a wealth of information about Morocco and its minerals. If for no other reason, get it for the shot of Gourrama quartz on page 79.

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