A group of Michigan Tech alumni found a set of new minerals in old, run-down mines in southern Utah.
According to a report from Phys.org, the trio of researchers discovered secondary crusts that have built over time in old uranium mines, which were closed close to 40 years ago.
Even though the mines have been shut down, the water and air still run through the tunnels of Dixie National Park's Red Canyon. Since the opening of the mine cuts into a hill, it forges new minerals along the adit, or opening of the mine.
"Have you ever seen ‘The Hills Have Eyes’? It's that kind of creepy, barren desert landscape," said Travis Olds, one of the researchers, according to Phys.org.
The three materials he and the others found are called leesite, leószilárdite and redcanyonite. These minerals appear a lot like uranium, with a less green tinge, according to the press release.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what those minerals are like.
- Leesite — a form of uranium rust, often bright yellow.
- Leószilárdite — a collection of bladed crystals, pale yellow.
Redcanyonite — Named after Red Canyon, it is one of the rarest uranyl minerals, and is often orange and orange-red.
"If you look at leószilárdite in a picture, you can kind of pick out that they have an unusual shape," Olds said in the press release. "But put them under the SEM (scanning electron microscope) and it's obvious." Olds said that it’s important to study these minerals because it shows how minerals can change over time.
"The only way to better understand the chemistry of uranium is to go out and find new minerals — and describe their topology, their structures," Olds said in the release. "They teach us a lot about how uranium can then be moved in the environment."
For a deeper look at the three minerals, head to phys.org.