Minerals of Jenolan Caves, New South Wales, Australia: Geological and Biological Interactions

R. E. Pogson, R.A.L. Osborne, D. M. Colchester


Geological and biological processes in the Jenolan Caves have formed a range of mineral species spanning several chemical groups. So far 25 mineral species have been either confirmed, or identified for the first time at Jenolan. Their chemical groups include carbonates: (calcite, aragonite, hydromagnesite, huntite, dolomite, ankerite); silicates: (kaolinite, K-deficient muscovite (‘illite’), montmorillonite clays); phosphates, (ardealite, hydroxylapatite, taranakite, leucophosphite, variscite, crandallite, montgomeryite, kingsmountite); sulfate: (gypsum); oxides: (quartz, cristobalite, amorphous silica, hematite, romanèchite); hydroxide: (goethite); nitrate: (niter); and chloride: (sylvite). Dolomitised limestone bedrock and ankerite veins can be recognised as a magnesium source of some magnesium carbonate minerals, as well as supplying a calcite inhibitor favouring aragonite formation. The cave clays have diverse origins. Some are recent sedimentary detritus. Older clays of Carboniferous age contain components of reworked altered volcaniclastics washed or blown into the caves, so these clays may represent argillic alteration of volcanic products. Some of the clays may have formed as alteration products of ascending hydrothermal fluids. The phosphates and some gypsum formed when bat guano reacted chemically with limestone and cave clays. Gypsum has also been formed from the breakdown of pyrite in altered bedrock or dolomitic palaeokarst. The niter and sylvite have crystalized from breakdown products of mainly wallaby guano.

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