Kernowite is a new mineral found only in an old sample collected in one place in Cornwall, UK.
The only known specimen of kernowite, named after Kernow, which is the Cornish word for Cornwall, was collected in the 1700s.
It became part of the Natural History Museum, London’s Geological Collection in 1964.
“Given how many geologists, prospectors and collectors have searched the county for centuries in search of mineral treasures, it’s amazing that we’re adding a new mineral in 2020,” said Mike Rumsey, chief mineral curator at the Natural History Museum in London.
Kernowite is what is known as a secondary mineral due to the way it is formed.
It occurs when other rocks, close to the Earth’s surface, mobilize their chemical elements with circulating water.
The elements now present in the fluid are recombined to create a new mineral from the various elements of the previously crystallized rock.
It is not always possible to date the formation of a secondary mineral and many are likely to have a short ‘lifespan’ as they are prone to erosion.
“To show that we have a new species, we need to conduct analyzes that determine the chemical composition of the material, the position of those atoms in the 3D crystal structure,” Rumsey said.
“Generally speaking, if any of these characteristics are unique, the mineral is new.”
“One part of its internal structure was dominated by iron instead of aluminum, so we considered it worthy of the new name, kernowite.”
“Although kernowite has no obvious direct application, all newly discovered minerals are based on our understanding of materials in general,” he added.
A description of kernowita will be published in Mineralogical Magazine 2021