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May-June 2017

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Media Reviews

Microminerals of the Bushveld Complex, South Africa by Maria T. Atanasova, Bruce Cairncross, and Wolfgang R. Windisch. Council for Geoscience, 280 Pretoria St., Silverton, Private Mail Bag 112, Pretoria 0001, South Africa; 437 pages; 2016; R1,000 (US $74) plus shipping and handling (hardbound).       


The Bushveld Complex is known to essentially all geologists as the largest layered intrusive complex in the world. As such, it has been studied in detail for decades, and the literature related to it is voluminous. Although it is the source of much of the world's platinum-group metals and chromite, and lesser tin and fluorite, it is not well known for its mineral specimens. However, as one will see from this new book, this is perhaps an oversight. The complex intrusive and post-intrusive history of the Bushveld has resulted in a wide variety of specimen-quality mineral occurrences, many of them rich in microminerals. This book, therefore, describes many of these occurrences and contains related supporting background and mineralogical data. The book has more than one thousand illustrations that are not limited to color photomicrographs of colorful crystals but also include good geologic maps, geochemical distribution base maps, electron photomicrographs, and site photographs. Mineral identifications are based on appropriate analytical and visual techniques, and over twenty minerals new to South Africa were identified during research for the text.

The book begins with several pages of introductory information that includes a table of contents, a foreword by the acting chief executive officer of the Council for Geoscience, a list of abbreviations, acknowledgments, short biographical sketches of the authors, and a preface.

Chapter 1 is a quite good introduction that includes eleven sections. The first several present an overview of the Bushveld with a separate section on secondary mineralization that has excellent examples and illustrations. Other sections in the chapter include five that deal specifically with microminerals and micromounting. There is a good section on the micromineral collection of Wolfgang Windisch and its clear value in the areas of reference and documentation, a section on photography, and a final listing and format discussion for the thirteen featured localities.

Chapters 2–13 present the meat of the book—individual discussions of the microminerals of the featured localities. These localities are arranged alphabetically beginning with the Argent silver mine and ending with the Vergenoeg fluorite deposit. In between these two, are descriptions of the famous Boekenhouthoek quartz locality, the Buffalo fluorite mine, the Edendale lead-zinc mine, the Houtenbek fluorite-molybdenite prospects, the long-abandoned Kruisrivier cobalt occurrence, the Kwaggafontein copper prospect, the Marlin norite quarry, the mineralogically complex Slipfontein and Tooyskraal fluorite occurrences, the Stavoren tin and related occurrences, and the Vaalkop Dam deposit. For each site, its history, location, geologic overview, and micromineralogy are given based on the authors' field observations, lab work, and the published literature.

Some striking surprises appear at a number of the featured sites. For example, excellent crocoites occur at the Argent silver mine along with good cerussite, pyromorphite, and a suite of other secondaries; nontronite, typically an uninteresting clay mineral, occurs in collectible acicular sprays at Houtenbek; good yellow bastnäsite-(Ce) can occur as a late secondary mineral as at Slipfontein; and ludlockite occurs in collectible specimens anywhere but Tsumeb (in this instance at Stavoren), to mention only a few. The book closes with a useful glossary, references, and a comprehensive index.

Microminerals of the Bushveld Complex, South Africa is a good presentation of the collector micromineralogy of what to most of us are lesser-known localities related to one of the world's great geologic features. It presents a good introduction to micromounting and photomicrography and is a useful sourcebook for a wider array of information than the title suggests. It is well conceived and organized, printed on slick, expensive-feeling paper, and generally well printed and edited. There are relatively few errors, but some do creep in. For example, austinite is spelled correctly within the text but spelled austenite in some figure captions. Interestingly, my word processing program defaults to the incorrect spelling automatically, and this is likely the source of this misspelling. The book is certainly recommended for anyone interested in secondary mineralogy and the weathering environment, southern African geology, and micromounting in general. 

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