St Petersburg University and Kola Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences have discovered a new mineral that consists of calcium, zinc, copper, and phosphorus. The newly discovered mineral was named batagaite as it was found in the village Batagai in Yakutia. The research findings were published in Mineralogy and Petrology.
Batagaite was discovered near Batagai, a municipal centre in Verkhoianskii district in the Republic of Sakha, near the mountain Kester. In 1930s, the territory was occupied by the labour camps and prisons, and the prisoners extracted stannum. After the Gulag was closed, the excavation was abandoned. The expedition of the Kola Research Centre set off to the mountain Kester in late 1980s. The scientists collected some samples of the new mineral.
“Batagaite is difficult to explore, and the methods we used in 1980s didn’t ensure that we could study it, — said the head of the Department of the Crystallography at SPbU, corresponding member of the RAS, Professor Sergei Krivovichev. — Our post-graduate student Taras Panikorovskii could decode its complex structure only thanks to the equipment the SPbU Research Park offers”.
The mineral has no equals among minerals and non-organic substances. It has q unique crystal structure that comprises two modules. It is practically colourless: it has only tints of light blue, and the layers on the surface of the native copper is highly fragile and easy to split off.
The mineral, as the scientists say, is difficult to work with. As a result, they could develop a new evaluation method to assess the structure of the minerals by using information diagrams. The method help understand how various factors (chemical composition and symmetry) contribute to the complex structure of the mineral. The article that tells how the new method works was accepted to publication in Zeitschrift für Kristallographie.
“We don’t have enough evidence to talk about practical applications of the new mineral, as the properties of the newly discovered minerals are studies some time after the discovery was made, — said Sergei Krivovichev. — However, similar minerals have magnetic properties. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough samples of the mineral to have a complex research. We will try to synthesize batagaite at the laboratory”.
Interestingly, during the expedition to the mountain Kester the scientists discovered another mineral that was named only this year. The substance is named epifanovite to commemorate a geologist Porfirii Epifanov from Moscow who discovered deposits of stannum and rare metals in 1937. Epifanovite is the first copper mineral that consists of phosphorus and arsenic in some atom positions. Its structure is based on the solid five-nucleus clusters of copper atoms that can be associated with magnetic properties. The description of the epifanovite and its crystal structure is published in the Notes of the Russian Mineralogical Society. In 2017, the Russian Mineralogical Society, as the oldest mineralogical society worldwide, celebrated its 200-anniversary.
The research of new minerals is carried out as part of the grant of the Russian Research Foundation “Minerals and non-organic compounds: stereochemistry, structural diversity, crystal and chemical factors of stability” headed by Sergei Krivovichev. Only 5,000 minerals are known today, while there are tens millions of living organisms on the Earth. It makes such discoveries a real breakthrough in science.