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Australians invite Ed Grew to report on rare minerals at Antarctic Science Planning Workshop in Tasmania

September 28th, 2010

120902G1-Bor-2xn-10X-col-baEd Grew was invited by the Australian Antarctic Division and Chris Carson of Geosciences Australia to give a talk “Rare minerals in the Australian Antarctic Territory” at the Antarctic Science Planning Workshop in Hobart, Australia on September 21.  The workshop was one of several organized by the Division to design implementation plans for the newly developed Australian Science Strategic Plan 2011/12-2020/21. The workshop held September 21 concerned “Vulnerability and spatial protection,” under the theme “Terrestrial and near-shore ecosystems: environmental change and conservation.”

The workshop emphasis was mostly on vulnerability and conservation of Antarctic biological systems, but Ed was one of four geoscientists invited to discuss geological perspectives. The others were Phil O’Brien, Chris Carson and Jody Smith from the Antarctic Geoscience Project of Geosciences Australia (which is comparable to a national geological survey). Ed spent the 2003-2004 field season with Chris Carson in Antarctica and continues to collaborate with him on Antarctic research.

Some of the minerals that Ed has studied in the field in Antarctica are found nowhere else in the world, and so he was invited to report on their relevance to science and their vulnerability to damage by human activity. He discussed the need for conservation of bedrock exposures containing rare minerals within the Australian Antarctic Territory, which comprises two pie-shaped slices between 45° E and 160° E. Although Antarctica seems remote and not at risk from exploitation, in recent years there has been a dramatically increased access to localities where rare minerals are exposed. He cited two coastal exposures as prime examples needing protection: Christmas and Zircon Points in Casey Bay in western Enderby Land (49° E), where beryllium minerals occur in anatectic pegmatites, and the Larsemann Hills, Prydz Bay (76° E), where borosilicates and phosphates are extensively developed in granulite-facies metamorphic rocks and anatectic pegmatites. The exposures are type localities for five minerals that Ed has discovered, three of which are found only in these outcrops. The new minerals, such as the boron-rich phase boralsilite, plus associated rarities such as sillimanite and prismatine in crystals several centimeters long and the beryllosilicate surinamite with its pleochroism in blue-green and purple colors, are not only of great scientific interest but also form beautiful mineral specimens that would be of particular appeal to collectors, which adds further urgency to the need for planning to preserve the localities in the field.

12208BSUR_scaleIn his presentation, Ed emphasized both the scientific significance as well as the uniqueness of the Casey Bay and Larsemann Hills mineral localities. At present, the Casey Bay localities are not protected, whereas the Larsemann Hills have been designated an Antarctic Specially Managed Area. International discussions are now underway which might offer further protection to the Stornes Peninsula within the Larsemann Hills: the Peninsula has been proposed as a Antarctic Specially Protected Area. There is interest both in Australia and in other nations actively involved in Antarctica in conserving these localities. As a result of the workshop, Ed and his colleagues from Geoscience Australia hope that conservation efforts in Antarctica in the future will include not only biological systems but also the remarkable and beautiful rare minerals found on the continent.