Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stuff I should know: ichnofossils, palaeosols, calcretes, and the dolomite problem.

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I'm an economic geologist and sedimentologist by training. I search valuble minerals. But guess what keeps my mind going around and around? Issues that, at first hand, have nothing to do with mineral wealth. Today, another day in another open pit mine, and I am longing to be an expert in trace fossils (ichnofossils), soil science and palaeosols, calcretes and palustrine carbonates, diagenetic concretions, and the dolomite problem. And you ask, do they have something to do with mineral exploration and resources?

Well - yes. They do. 

Am especially puzzled by the over-whelming amount of what I interprete to be trace fossils of some kind. Though I am no palaeontologist, especially no ichnologist (is that the right word even?). I should take some palaeontologist and soils scientist to the mines. They'd be amazed. Well, I am. 

:-)

P.S. If you can recommend some superb trace fossils for dummies articles or books focusing on fluvial-limnic-lacustrine-palustrine-something depositional environments - let me know.

Friday, August 19, 2011

White bentonite - most delicious rock on earth!

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The last post demonstrated how we use big machines to dig deeper for science. Let me introduce one of the fruits that we could reap because of it: white bentonite. It is the lower most bentonite bed in the region. Roughly 2 - 5 cm thick and very, very pure montmorillonite. If it would be thicker and if it would not be coverered by 40 cm of sandy dirt it would be a real treasure. Mine workers are known to eat it when having problems with their stomach, i.e. pyrosis. A table spoon of white bentonite and it will pass after some minutes. The best way to describe its physical appearance is white chocolate. It's nearly in-distuigishable visually. We've been literally eating our way upwards in this pit. White bentonite has no taste but a pleasent consistency in the mouth - just like chocolate. It shows a conchoidal fracture and has a waxy feel.

Cream-white bentonite. Yummy!

P.S. Please bear with me for the superficial postings. Being a PhD and a teaching assistant eats all my time and most of the creativity. Writing high-quality post is unfortunately a time-consuming task. I don't have much time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

That's the one I want for Christmas!

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I've been sharing this image on facebook therefore I thought that I ought to show my loyal readers, as well. Thuesday I've been in the field north of Munich in one of the active bentonite pits that are currently in production. The big machinery just left the pit that morning but we still were fortunate enough to have the small excavator working in the pit which was of great help digging some holes for us to reach the lowest member of the bentonite. It's pretty awesome to direct the big machinery and tell them where to dig for you! I wish I'd always have one at hand for every field trip!

 Digging deeper for science!