Kernowite is a new mineral that has only been found in an old specimen collected from a single location in Cornwall, UK.
The only known specimen of kernowite, named Kernow which is the Cornish word for Cornwall, was collected in the 1700s.
It joined the Natural History Museum, London’s geological collections in 1964.
“Considering how many geologists, prospectors and collectors have scoured the county over the centuries in search of mineral treasures, it is surprising that in 2020 we are adding a new mineral,” said Mike Rumsey, principal curator of minerals at the Natural History Museum in London.
Kernowite is what is known as a secondary mineral due to the way it was formed.
It is formed when other rocks, close to the surface of the Earth, have had their chemical elements mobilized by the circulation of water.
The elements now present in the fluid recombine to create a new mineral from different elements of previously crystallized rock.
It is not always possible to date the formation of a secondary mineral and many probably have a short “life” due to erosion.
“To show that we have a new species, we need to carry out analyzes that determine the chemical composition of the material, the positions of these atoms within the 3D crystal structure,” Rumsey said.
“In general, if one or both of these characteristics are unique, the mineral is new.”
“Part of its internal structure was dominated by iron rather than aluminum, so we found it worthy of a new name, kernowite.”
“Although kernowite has no obvious direct application, all of the newly discovered minerals are based on our understanding of the materials in general,” he added.
The description of kernowite will be published in Mineralogical magazine in 2021.