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May-June 2014

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Media Reviews

The Kalahari Manganese Field: The Adventure Continues by Bruce Cairncross and Nicolas J. Beukes. Struik Nature, PO Box 1144, Cape Town 8000, South Africa. 384 pages; 2013; $85 (hardbound).

For those familiar with Bruce Cairncross's earlier books—Minerals of South Africa (Cairncross and Dixon 1995), The Manganese Adventure: The South African Manganese Fields (Cairncross, Beukes, and Gutzmer 1997), and The Desmond Sacco Collection (Cairncross 2000)—the high technical quality and magnificent photography of this latest offering will come as no surprise. Dr. Cairncross is the leading descriptive and geographic mineralogist in southern Africa, maintains a large private and research mineral collection (much of which is self-collected), and is a gifted photographer, all assets that have contributed significantly to this new book. His coauthor is equally well qualified, being acknowledged as one of the leading experts on the Kalahari Manganese Field and associated iron-ore deposits. Together they present an unusually comprehensive picture of this geologically complex and mineralogically intriguing district. For the geologist, the book is a quick and ready reference for what is the largest land-based source of manganese on Earth. For the mineralogist, it is a comprehensive essay on a district that has, for more than sixty years, supplied magnificent specimens of both common and rare species to collectors and museums worldwide.

The first chapter is titled simply “Manganese” and is an introduction to the Kalahari Manganese Field and its economic importance. The second chapter is a detailed review of the history of the field with an emphasis on mining. It begins with the story of the field's discovery and initial small-scale production, moves to its rapid expansion and economic growth, and ultimately focuses on its major developments since 2004. This includes the opening of new mines, major research efforts, and, thankfully, contract specimen mining. Chapter 3, “Geology,” consists of five major sections, beginning with a well-illustrated discussion of manganese that starts with the origin and global distribution of its deposits. This initial section reviews manganese precipitation mechanisms and the mineralogy of manganese accumulations, the distribution of land-based deposits in geologic time, and deep-sea manganese occurrences. The chapter's second section presents the detailed geology of the Kalahari field, focusing on its regional geological setting, stratigraphy, structure, and main ore types. The next section is a detailed description of the ores and related mineralogy of specific geologic events that have sequentially resulted in the deposits as they exist today. Separate subsections deal with events producing collector minerals, sulfide minerals of the “Gloria event,” minerals of the “Smartt event” including asbestiform minerals, and minerals of supergene origin. The following section presents genetic models that include discussion of the nature of the original depositional basin; the origin of iron, manganese, and silica; precipitation mechanisms, diagenesis, and first-formed minerals; and a summary of events that led to the formation of the giant district as it presently exists. The final section discusses geometallurgy and manganese alloy production, pointing out the importance of mineral phase transitions and quantitative mineralogy in manganese alloy production.

The fourth and longest chapter, some 230 pages, is devoted to mineralogy, focusing almost exclusively on collector species. It begins with a good discussion and chronology of mineral specimen mining, a fortuitous happening that led to the preservation of many hundreds if not thousands of fine mineral specimens during the 2004–2009 time period. Included is a list of 18 minerals for which the ore field is the type locality. At last we come to almost 200 pages of mineral descriptions and related photographs, arranged alphabetically from aegirine to xonotlite. Every page boasts at least one color photograph of a spectacular example of the mineral under discussion. Most specimens are from the Cairncross collection or that of Desmond Sacco, the chairman of ASSORE (the dominant operator in the field and sponsor of the book). Of the 155 species known from the field, 80 are presented in this photo-dominated section. Special attention is given to species for which the field is famous, including olmiite, rhodochrosite, ettringite, poldervaartite, sugilite, sturmanite, and shigaite. Final sections are devoted to pending new minerals, pseudomorphs, and fluorescent minerals, again with each section containing wonderful color illustrations. The book closes with a tabulation of the field's minerals, an extensive bibliography, and an index.

There are many strengths to The Kalahari Manganese Field. The technical illustrations in the introductory and geology chapters are unusually helpful and well done. Of equal quality and value are the hundreds of specimen photographs, chosen not only for their beauty and perfection but also for the illustration of the species' variations and associations. The overall presentation is quite good, with careful editing and high-quality paper and binding. One could ask for little more from an update and expansion of The Manganese Adventure, and in this regard the book is highly recommended to the economic geologist as well as the mineral connoisseur.


Cairncross, B. 2000. The Desmond Sacco collection: Focus on southern Africa. Johannesburg, South Africa: Desmond Sacco.

Cairncross, B., N. J. Beukes, and J. Gutzmer. 1997. The manganese adventure: The South African manganese fields. Johannesburg, South Africa: Associated Ore & Minerals Corporation.

Cairncross, B., and R. Dixon. 1995. Minerals of South Africa. Johannesburg: Geological Society of South Africa


Apatite—The Great Pretender edited by John Rakovan et al. Lithographie, Denver, CO; 124 pages; 2013; $35 (softbound).

Apatite is indeed the “great pretender” because the apparent Greek root of its original name implies “to deceive,” referring to its widely varying forms, colors, and chemistry that clearly mimic other important minerals. In addition, apatite is perhaps the most underappreciated of all minerals. It boasts an unusually broad distribution in an array of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks and can be found in terrains of virtually any age. It is indispensable from an economic and agricultural standpoint and is mined at dozens of sites worldwide. From the collector's standpoint, it occurs in many forms and colors. It is useful as a gemstone despite its relative softness. Finally, its composition is so varied that it was given group status long, long ago, and today we relegate the apatites to a supergroup consisting of five distinct groups. So, it is not surprising that a Lithographie volume devoted to apatite should follow those already published for such important minerals as garnet, tourmaline, gold, fluorite, calcite, topaz, and smithsonite.

Apatite consists of 16 chapters or short stand-alone papers, and a final compilation of references cited throughout. It begins with an informative technical review of apatite by John Rakovan and John Hughes. This is followed by a good discussion of apatite color and fluorescence highlighted by excellent photographs showing color change in various wavelengths of visible light and variations in fluorescence. Chapter 3 is a description of the type locality, Ehrenfriedersdorf, Germany, followed by an overview of the geology of apatite occurrences. The geology chapter contains an interesting inset description of the little-known giant apatite crystals from the Karur-Kangayam gemstone belt of India by Bert Ottens. The fifth chapter is a summary discussion of important apatite localities and environments in the United States authored by Carl Francis and Donald Dallaire. Next we uncover important information concerning the well-known and quite enormous Canadian apatite crystals as well as some astounding Canadian gem apatite. Unusual Mexican apatite occurrences, including the famous Cerro de Mercado locality, are found in the following chapter. Moving south, the Western Hemisphere is completed with discussions of Brazilian and Andean apatites by Luiz Menezes and Mario Chaves, and Alfredo Petrov and Jaroslav Hyrsl, respectively. The next six locality chapters treat apatite from Panasqueira, Portugal; Alpine localities; northern Pakistan and Nuristan, Afghanistan; China and Japan; and Russia and other former Soviet Republics. The final chapter is devoted to meteoritic apatite, a subject of slight collector interest but of clear scientific importance

Like all recent Lithographic offerings, Apatite presents a series of strengths that include knowledgeable authors, timely and up-to-date information, comprehensiveness, and excellent illustrations. Specimen photography is highlighted by the works of Jeff Scovil, Kevin Downey, Michael Bainbridge, Marcelo Lerner, Joe Budd, Mark Mauthner, and others. Maps and related technical drawings by William Besse add substantially to the locality discussions. The numerous specimen photographs represent some of the most outstanding apatites in both public and private collections. The volume is well edited and the photographic reproduction crisp with excellent and faithful color rendition. The paper is slick and of high quality, and the binding is relatively tight.

Also like other volumes in this series, Apatite treats the reader to a feast of eye candy coupled with significant background information on apatite as a mineral, a group, and a supergroup. In addition, it does a fine job of focusing on major specimen occurrences. It certainly leaves nothing to the imagination with respect to just how good the best apatite specimens can be. The book is well worth the price and should be added to the growing shelf space required for the reference volumes in this continuing series.


Mineral Explorers—Colombia, DVD hosted by Thomas Nagin, Think-Box Media, Inc., PO Box 8033, Hot Springs, AR 71901; 65 minutes; 2010; $25 (includes shipping and handling).

This interesting and award-winning DVD is the first Mineral Explorer production by well-known mineral dealer Thomas Nagin of Crystal Springs Mining. Nagin has been a fixture at major mineral shows for years and is the source of some of the finest ametrine, unusually large African quartz crystals, and, in years past, exceptional Bolivian cassiterites. So it comes as no surprise that it is now time for him to share with the collector community some of his experiences in both remote and more familiar places in his continuing quest for fine minerals and gems. He begins with this initial DVD highlighting Colombian emeralds with side excursions to several other localities, interviews with experts, and even a touch of the metaphysical.

The 44-minute main feature is essentially a travelogue to the emerald-producing area of Colombia and the emerald marketplace in Bogota. It is divided into 5 chapters, the first of which is an introduction titled “The Adventure Begins.” This is followed by a journey across the Savannah Bogota as Chapter 2. Here we get acquainted with local scenery, towns, and some of the people that accompany us on our trip to the mines. Chapter 3 is the journey to the Cosquez mine and includes an interesting trip underground where we see emerald-bearing calcite veins. Chapter 4 carries us on a muddy and dangerous journey along the shortcut from Cosquez to Muzo, where host Nagin shares his historical perspective on the famous Muzo mine of the 1980s compared with the underground operation that exists there today. Finally, we return to Bogota where we see both the street and formal emerald markets from the buyer's perspective. It is a fun trip that presents far more than simply several wet and muddy emerald mines and a bustling city of 8 million people. Some of the dialogue is quaint, the laughter seemingly forced at times, and one of the Mineral Explorers perhaps a bit inexperienced. The total journey, however, gives a very realistic picture that encompasses the complete Colombian emerald experience.

In addition to the main feature, there are five “Special Features” that collectively account for approximately 21 additional minutes of viewing. The first is a quick trip to the famous Coleman quartz mine where we discover that mineral show promoter Marty Zinn is also a Mineral Explorer. The next feature is a visit to the very wet Brazilian quartz mine called Garampo do Prades, famous for its tangerine-colored crystals. There follows a short introduction to a variety of people designated as “Mineral Explorers”; some are familiar and some are locals at sites yet to be covered by planned future DVDs. Special Feature 4 is an interview with Bill Metropolis, a gem and mineral consultant and former curator of several museums, who explains a bit about the science of beryl, the chemistry of emerald, and the evaluation of emerald as a gemstone. Finally, in Special Feature 5, Stephen Hill tells of the legend of Fura and Tena and the origin of emeralds, ending with a good discussion of the relationship of minerals, mythology, and metaphysics.

The production quality of the DVD is generally good, thanks in no small part to the directing, editing, and camera work of Jonathan Kudabeck and the musical production by Greg Nagin. The main feature gives one a somewhat quaint overview of the mining area and emerald industry. The special features are certainly interesting additional material, only some of which is emerald-oriented. There are other Mineral Explorers DVDs in various stages of production. These include those devoted to gem minerals, giant quartz crystals, and gold in Minas Gerais, Brazil; amethyst, ametrine, phosphophyllite, and cassiterite from Bolivia; and silver and amethyst from Taxco and Vera Cruz, Mexico. These, coupled with at least four other planned DVDs, should produce the meat of a worthwhile mineral and gem locality DVD library. I recommend Mineral Explorers—Colombia to anyone who would like to get a quick picture of the emerald area of Colombia with a real feel for what this rather remote place is like. I certainly await future episodes of the Mineral Explorers.


Nuggets and High Grade: Mining and Mineral Collecting Songs of David K. Joyce, CD produced by Jason LaPrade and David K. Joyce. Order from 2013; $15 plus $3 postage in North America, $4 elsewhere.

This professionally performed, produced, and packaged CD contains twelve songs ranging in length from about 2.5 minutes to over 6 minutes. They cover a wide range of themes arising from mining, mineral collecting, mineral dealing, and the mineral culture, and they reflect David K. Joyce's experiences as a musician, mineral collector active in field collecting, professional mining expert, and mineral dealer. Some of these songs will be familiar to those who have participated in a jam session in the wee hours of mineral shows and symposia when Joyce gets out his guitar.

The songs include “Packsack Miner,” “Crystals That I've Known,” “Damn the Glaciers,” “Agate Lickers,” “Diggin' in a Hole,” “Highway 17,” “Gold Is Where You Find It,” “Crystal Systems,” “The Mineral Dealer,” “Miner's Home,” “Glory Hole,” and “Why?” There is certainly something here for everybody.

One of my favorites is “Crystals That I've Known” because it captures the dichotomy between the objectives of a field collector (e.g., plate-sized sphenes) and the usual outcome (e.g., tiny crystals suitable for micromounters). It also summarizes the reality of the slow decline of field effectiveness caused by old age.

“Damn the Glaciers” is a musical spoof on the “Hallelujah Chorus” of Handel's Messiah that effectively explains why all the great metallic deposits in Canada are missing their secondary minerals. It is a great song, and the familiar music of the chorus is very comfortable.

“Agate Lickers,” cowritten by Robert T. Downs, is a tongue-in-cheek dig at the various tribes of mineral collecting. If this song doesn't gore your ox with good humor, maybe you don't have an ox.

“Crystal Systems” captures perfectly the experience of anyone new to the study of crystallography. The song is so funny because although the words are outrageous, the underlying truth will strike a chord with all but the most crystal obsessed.

If you are a field collector, you will love “Why?”: Why do rocks have to be so heavy? Why do rocks have to be so pointy? Why do rocks crack the wrong way? The song goes on and on with these so-familiar questions.

As befits a country or mining ballad, the lyrics are sometimes awkwardly woven into the melody because the story is the important thing. After all, how smooth and musical is a term such as termination. Accompaniments are beautifully performed. The added vocals all work really well. Joyce himself has an idiosyncratic tendency to blur his intonation in some transitions, but it is a consistent part of his style and adds to the authenticity.

Most mineral collectors will enjoy listening to this CD. It goes well with a fire in the fireplace and a beer, or a single-malt scotch. Kudos to Joyce and his musicians for bringing this work to market.


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