Australian university confirms Israeli rare mineral discovery

February 21, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Shefa Yamim’s shares soared 6.5% on the Tel Aviv stock exchange when the Israeli exploration and mining company announced that it has discovered rare minerals near Israel’s port city of Haifa…results prepared a geologist at Sydney’s Macquarie University.

Professor Bill Griffin

Professor Bill Griffin

A report was prepared by professor of geology William Griffin of Australia’s Macquarie University following his examination of the mineral samples of corundum stones sent to him by Shefa Yamim, which found the stones in several sites in the Kishon River. The corundum stones contain a variety of rare minerals, including Moissanite and tistarite.

“Until now, [tistarite] has been found on a single meteorite that came from outer space; this has been the first find in nature of this mineral, whose source is deep inside the Earth,” Shefa Yamim told Israeli media.

Almost half of the components found inside the corundum stones are not yet identifiable.  Shefam Yamim’s shares went up 6.5 percent on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange following the company’s announcement on the mineral.

Israel already is an international center in the diamond trade having a concentration of expertise in cutting diamonds, especially at the high end of the market.

Bill Griffin said: “The diamonds that Shefa Yamim  has found in the alluvial deposits of course can be cut, but diamond is quite rare in the deposits, compared to the sapphire/ruby production.  On the present statistics, diamonds will make up a relatively small part of the total carat weight that might be produced once mining starts.”

He explained the find to J-Wire.

“I and the ARC Centre of Excellence in which I work are interested in the movement of fluids in the deep Earth, and one of the puzzling aspects is the occurrence of moissanite in various mantle samples, including kimberlites (moissanite actually has been found included in diamond). The problem is that moissanite should not exist in the Earth’s mantle, because it requires a very low partial pressure of oxygen, much lower than what is generally accepted as the mantle value.  A Russian scientist with whom I collaborate on this research had heard that Shefa Yamim had found crystals of moissanite several millimeters in size, which is 10-100 times the normal size found in the mantle.  I contacted Shefa Yamim to ask if they could supply me with some of this material for isotopic analysis, and they responded with great enthusiasm.

Shefa Yamim’s exploration target is gemstones (mainly sapphire and ruby) that weather out of the basalts on Mt Carmel and in the wider drainage of the Kishon River, and they have carried out a very professional exploration program, assisted by former DeBeers people.  When the company sent us the requested moissanite, they also included a large parcel of their other minerals.  We carried out chemical microanalyses to determine the elements responsible for the different colours of sapphire, ruby and an orange-brown variety of corundum,  dubbed “Carmel Sapphire” (I should note that sapphire, ruby and the “Carmel sapphire” are all the same mineral, corundum, or aluminum oxide).  When we began to investigate the Carmel sapphire, we found that it contains abundant inclusions of a huge range of minerals that, like moissanite, require very low partial pressures of oxygen.  The only analogue to this environment is found in some very primitive meteorites: they record the conditions that existed in the Solar nebula during the earliest stages of the solar system’s development.  Tistarite (Ti2O3), for example, was previously known only from a single tiny grain in one of these meteorites, associated with corundum.  We have submitted a paper to a geological journal describing this environment, but it is still under review.

With regard to usefulness:  the deposit that Shefa Yamim is planning to mine contains sapphire, ruby and the Carmel Sapphire; the last was originally regarded as “non-gem” but recent experiments with polishing it produced some very interesting gemstones.  Synthetic moissanite, cut to gemstones, sells in New York for prices comparable to diamond, so the large crystals of moissanite that Shefa Yamim has recovered clearly represent a gem resource as well.  The primary and alluvial deposits also contain small quantities of diamond, as well as a number of byproduct minerals that have respectable prices.

The tistarite and the other unusual minerals that we have discovered are too small to have any economic value in themselves, but we will be carrying out experiments to see if other parts of the potential production can be treated for the extraction of rare elements.

I had the pleasure of visiting Israel (for the first time) in January, to inspect Shefa Yamim’s operations, visit some of the primary volcanic sources, and attend the annual meeting of the Israel Geological Association — I held a plenary talk, and another on the details of our discoveries; three other talks in the same session dealt with other aspects of SY’s exploration.  Shefa Yamim paid for this trip, but otherwise have not contributed financially to the research, which is supported by a grant from the Australian Research Council through the Centre of Excellence.

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