Science

New Mineral Described From Uranium Mine In Utah

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh announced the naming of the new mineral Oldsite after Dr. Travis Olds, the museum’s Assistant Curator of Minerals. The International Mineralogical Association verified the mineral, which was accepted in October 2021 by an international team of scientists. Oldsite is named in recognition of Olds’ contributions to uranium minerology.

Collected at Utah’s North Mesa mines near Temple Mountain, Oldsite forms from the interaction of air and water with uranium and iron-sulfide ores in the humid underground environment, leading to crystalline deposits on the surfaces of mine walls. Oldsite occurs as tiny yellow, rectangular blades measuring up to 0.3 millimeters in length. The crystals are thin and brittle and dissolve in water.

“I’m honored to be the namesake of such a fascinating mineral,” said Olds. “My research focuses on descriptive minerology, particularly minerals containing uranium, which has been my passion since I knew I wanted to become a mineralogist. Oldsite is unique because it helps us fill in some puzzle pieces about how uranium behaves in the environment. The way its atoms connect to each other in the crystal structure tells us about the conditions that led to its formation. This information can be useful to help keep uranium out of drinking water, or to clean up nuclear waste.”

Specialized in studying radioactive minerals and nuclear materials, Olds has discovered or been involved in the description of 24 new minerals, of which 21 contain uranium. 

The holotype specimen of Oldsite, or original specimen to be named, is held in the collections of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

About 5,000 minerals have been found to this day on Earth, and every year some new ones are discovered. They are named following a few rules. The proposed name can reflect the chemical composition or some other physical property of a mineral. The mineral can be named for the locality in which the mineral was first found. It is also possible to name a new mineral after a prominent scientist or other person living or dead.


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