The Worlds Largest Gypsum Crystals, Naica, Mexico

Topics: Gypsum, Mineral, Cave Pages: 7 (1983 words) Published: December 15, 2011
Research Paper

The World's Largest Gypsum Crystals

A mile below one of Mexico's most important lead and silver mines, and a few miles above the earth's magma lies a magnificent Geological Wonder. It Is Known As “The Cave Of Crystals." It contains the largest gypsum crystals known in the world to date. The cave was discovered in 2000 by two brothers drilling 1000 feet below the ground while working for Penoles mining company (Garcia-Ruiz et al.). Man and mining have had a negative impact on the crystals, and should be held accountable for the future fate of this geological wonder. We must prevent its destruction, and benefit from the knowledge that science can gain studding this unique treasure. Cave mineralogy is a fairly new field of study that will continue to grow and earn a prestigious place in the larger scientific community. This find is the most important geological discovery made in our lifetime.

This phenomenon merits a description. Growing up from the floor, the enormous crystals mirror columns of light, perfectly transparent and luminous. Among the giants is a prismatic shaped crystal measuring 11 m long. Many perfectly formed shards up to a meter in size sparkle and shimmer across the ceiling and walls. It is a magical place, described as a surreal fantasy world (London, 25).


In Northern Mexico, about 100km, southeast of the city Chihuahua lies the Naica Mine. It has been operated by the Penoles mining company since 1952. They are the largest producers of lead and silver in Mexico, along with the production of zinc. The opening to the mine is on the North side of the Sierra de Naica, which according to scientific data lies above three known faults, the Gibraltar, Naica and the Montana. These faults still control the rise of thermal fluids. Hydrothermal circulation is responsible for the location of mineral deposits. Many years ago, tectonic stressors created cavities inside the aquifer; one of these caves today is called “The cave of crystals.” It is famous for the gypsum giants (Forti, 135). This discovery holds many secrets that will be exposed by science.

The geological process that dictated the unique environment from which these giants materialized consisted of the natural pairing of two diverse fluids filling into the cave. One being from the deep, (phreatic), and the other from the shallow or (epi-phreatic) and vadose levels. These hydrothermal fluids, which are directly connected to the origin of the caves and mines, have been functioning as they are today for over twenty five million years. Over time, with these two chemicals overlapping and mixing with one another, we end up with an overabundance, referred to as “super-saturation” (Fricker, Garofalo, and Gunther, 620) This formed the perfect nursery required to develop these gorgeous gargantuans.

A 2011 Journal printed a paper entitled “Role of Fluid Inclusion Analysis in Understanding Giagintic Selenite Crystal Growth in a Deep Karst Cave. “The paper offered a recent study of fluid inclusion has shown that the crystals were formed within a small margin of temperature. The solubility of gypsum and anhydrite are the same at just under 54°C. These crystals grow at low supersaturation and from low salinity solutions. The analysis data shows that dissolution of anhydrite formed during hydrothermal mineralization produces a growth solution consistent with that of oxygen and sulfur isotopic compositions of gypsum crystals. This study puts forth that the huge crystals were created by a self-feeding system, fueled by a solution-mediated anhydrite-gypsum phase transition (Garcia-Ruiz, 327-330).

Man and mining have had a negative impact on these wondrous crystals. Based on the current research and data available concerning the growth of crystals, the oldest Naica mine crystals date back about 400,000 years. This date is not exact. Scientists measure present day rate of growth to determine the precise age of a crystal....
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