Skip to Main Content
Book Chapter

The mineral signature of the Anthropocene in its deep-time context

By
Jan Zalasiewicz
Jan Zalasiewicz
Department of Geology, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
Search for other works by this author on:
Ryszard Kryza
Ryszard Kryza
University of Wrocław, Institute of Geological Sciences, ul. Cybulskiego 30, 50-205 Wrocław, Poland
Search for other works by this author on:
Mark Williams
Mark Williams
Department of Geology, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
Search for other works by this author on:
Published:
January 01, 2014

Abstract

The Earth has shown a systematic increase in mineral species through its history, with three ‘eras’ comprising ten ‘stages’ identified by Robert Hazen and his colleagues (Hazen et al. 2008), the eras being associated with planetary accretion, crust and mantle reworking and the influence of life, successively. We suggest that a further level in this form of evolution has now taken place of at least ‘stage’ level, where humans have engineered a large and extensive suite of novel, albeit not formally recognized minerals, some of which will leave a geologically significant signal in strata forming today. These include the great majority of metals (that are not found natively), tungsten carbide, boron nitride, novel garnets and many others. A further stratigraphic signal is of minerals that are rare in pre-industrial geology, but are now common at the surface, including mullite (in fired bricks and ceramics), ettringite, hillebrandite and portlandite (in cement and concrete) and ‘mineraloids’ (novel in detail) such as anthropogenic glass. These have become much more common at the Earth’s surface since the mid-twentieth century. However, the scale and extent of this new phase of mineral evolution, which represents part of the widespread changes associated with the proposed Anthropocene Epoch, remains uncharted. The International Mineralogical Association (IMA) list of officially accepted minerals explicitly excludes synthetic minerals, and no general inventory of these exists. We propose that the growing geological and societal significance of this phenomenon is now great enough for human-made minerals to be formally listed and catalogued by the IMA, perhaps in conjunction with materials science societies. Such an inventory would enable this phenomenon to be placed more effectively within the context of the 4.6 billion year history of the Earth, and would help characterize the strata of the Anthropocene.

You do not currently have access to this article.

Figures & Tables

Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene

C. N. Waters
C. N. Waters
British Geological Survey, UK
Search for other works by this author on:
J. A. Zalasiewicz
J. A. Zalasiewicz
University of Leicester, UK
Search for other works by this author on:
M. Williams
M. Williams
University of Leicester, UK
Search for other works by this author on:
M. Ellis
M. Ellis
British Geological Survey, UK
Search for other works by this author on:
A. M. Snelling
A. M. Snelling
British Geological Survey, UK
Search for other works by this author on:
Geological Society of London
Volume
395
ISBN electronic:
9781862396715
Publication date:
January 01, 2014

GeoRef

References

Related

Citing Books via

Close Modal
This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal