An Explosion of Never-Before-Seen Minerals
Could Mark The Dawn of a New Geological Epoch
This eclipses the Great Oxidation Event.
Scientists have identified a sudden explosion of mineral diversity on the surface of our planet that would not exist if it weren’t for humans, adding weight to the argument that we’re living in a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene.
A new study has found that the incredible upsurge of new minerals around the time of the industrial revolution led to the unprecedented diversification of crystals on Earth, eclipsing even the Great Oxidation Event 2.3 billion years ago as the “greatest increase in the history of the globe”.
“This is a spike of mineral novelty that is so rapid – most of it in the last 200 years, compared to the 4.5-billion-year history of Earth. There is nothing like it in Earth’s history,” one of the team, Robert Hazen from the Carnegie Institution for Science told The Guardian.
“This is a blink of an eye, it is just a surge, and … we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”
Hazen and his team analysed the 5,208 minerals on Earth that are officially recognised by the International Mineralogical Association, and found that 208 of them would not exist if it weren’t for human activity.
These human-triggered minerals include chalconatronite, a rare copper mineral that crystallises as a bright blue crust on ancient Egyptian bronze artefacts, and andersonite, a uranium-laced mineral with a fluorescent green or yellow glow that forms on the walls of mine tunnels.