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September-October 2017

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Gold Crystals from the Lena Goldfields, Bodaibo Area, Eastern Siberia, Russia: Exceptional Hoppered Octahedra and Pseudomorphs after Pyrite

Mining for gold in the Bodaibo area, also referred to as the Lena Goldfields (Lenskie zolotyje Priiski), dates back to the nineteenth century when gold was first produced from placer deposits. At that time alluvial mining was more attractive than hard rock mining due to high concentrations of gold in placers and the ease of extraction. Placer gold deposits in the Bodaibo region formerly represented the largest gold reserves in the world. Today, the giant Sukhoi Log (dry valley) deposit, which is located some 20 kilometers north of the town of Kropotkin in the Bodaibo area, is the largest gold deposit in Russia and is also ranked as one of the world's largest gold deposits (Distler et al. 2004; Wood and Popov 2006; Large et al. 2007). The estimated in-situ gold content (lode deposit) of the Sukhoi Log deposit is 1,100 tons (Wood and Popov 2006). However, about 70 percent of the total gold production in the Lena Goldfields still originates from alluvial deposits. The grain size of gold particles from placers usually varies between 2 and 4 mm, and the region is also known for unusually large gold nuggets (e.g., the “Giant of Bodaibo,” found in 1957 [12.3 kilograms], and the “Devil's Ear,” found in June 2014 [6.66 kilograms] [Leibov 2004; Kolesar and Tvrdý 2006]). Large gold nuggets from the Lena Goldfields sometimes exhibit contours of octahedral gold crystals (fig. 1).


Dr. John Rakovan, an executive editor of Rocks & Minerals, is a professor of mineralogy and geochemistry at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Dr. Volker Lüders is a geochemist for economic geology at the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ, German Research Centre for Geosciences.

Andreas Massanek is the mineralogist at and curator of Terra Mineralia and of the mineralogical collections at TU Bergakademie Freiberg; he is also head of the geoscientific collections of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg.

Dr. Gert Nolze is a crystallographer with an expertise in electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD) at the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing in Berlin, Germany.

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