Unheard of mineral discovered in a cave in Spain

A team of researchers from the Geological Survey of Spain and the Complutense de Madrid University has discovered a new mineral, the zaccagnaita-3R, in a cave known as “The Soplao,” located in the historical northern region of Cantabria.

The finding, published in the April issue of American Mineralogist, journal produced by the Mineralogical Society of America, is unique in the world as it is the first reported case of a zaccagnaita formed in a cave, which turns this into a new mineral species espeleotémico, and The Soplao in a single cavity by hosting it, said the Cantabria government in a statement.

The new mineral, rich in aluminum from a chemical point of view, has a peculiar morphology and zoned octahedral fluorescence, said the authors of the discovery.

Image of the 3r Zaccagnaita discovered in Spain, taken with a microscope, courtesy of the Cantabria’s government, Spain

The scientific breakthrough is the result of geological research work being carried out in El Soplao thanks to an agreement signed by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Tourism and Trade, the Geological Survey, and the company SIEC.

Potential applications

Zaccagnaita is an extremely rare mineral discovered in 2001 in Carrara (Italy), which hasn’t been found in other than microscopic sizes until now, as Zaccagnaita-3R.

The mineral belongs to the hydrotalcite group and is of special value as an industrial processes catalysts as well as in water treatment and the pharmacy sector, mainly in the production of antacids, antiseptics, anti-inflammatories and in the treatment of heart diseases.

It can also be used as a PVC stabilizer stresses and to treat waste fluids.

Main photo: Speleothems in the Cave of El Soplao, Spain (Wikipedia)