Today, I learned that those discarded metals and other things are combining into new minerals.
Simonkolleite, a corrosion product of Zinc.
[S]imonkolleite, was described as a new mineral in 1985 for samples collected at Richelsdorf, Germany. It is a rare secondary mineral formed by weathering of zinc-bearing slag, and is associated with native zinc,Maybe I'm a bit sensitive to it, but the linked article on Science Alert seems to have a bit of a greenie-inspired "mankind is destroying the world" tone to it (IMO, of course). The geologist they talk to says that since the industrial revolution, we've seen the creation of the largest number of minerals in the shortest period of time in history.
"This is a spike of mineral novelty that is so rapid - most of it in the last 200 years, compared to the 4.5-billion-year history of Earth. There is nothing like it in Earth's history," one of the team, Robert Hazen from the Carnegie Institution for Science told The Guardian.On the other hand, Hazen followed that statement up with an argument that strikes me as rather weak. He said he and his team analyzed the 5,208 minerals on Earth that are officially recognized by the International Mineralogical Association, and found that 208 of them would not exist if it weren't for human activity. 208 out 5208 (4%) in 200 years is the most dramatic creation in history? Previously, the most dramatic period of mineral creation was when oxygen was introduced into the atmosphere (a period known as The Great Oxygenation Event). That event led to an increase in the number of minerals on the surface from just over 2,000 varieties to more than 4,000, essentially doubling. That's a far cry from 4%.
Most of the 208 minerals triggered by humanity came about thanks to mining, while six were found on the walls of smelters, three in a geothermal piping system, and four on prehistoric sacrificial burning sites in the Austrian mountains.The point of the article, instead of pointing out that things like this are going to be mined in landfills in the future, is that this "rapid" formation of minerals marks a new period in the earth's history, the Anthropocene. Clearly, Hazen is an advocate for that explanation:
Many other new minerals could also be forming in our giant waste dumps, encrusting old batteries and electrical appliances like never before, the team suggests.
"There are probably all sorts of things forming as a result of old silicon chips or batteries," Hazen told Chelsea Whyte from New Scientist.
"TVs have all these exotic phosphors they use, and magnets and all sorts of high-tech materials. When you start hydrating and oxidising them, you're going to start finding a lot of exotic new materials."
"That's really I think the most important factor in deciding whether or not the Anthropocene is a new geological time period - the fact that we have created these materials, these crystals, that are incredibly diverse and beautiful and they persist through billions of years," Hazen told Nicola Davis at The Guardian.After the fall of the iron curtain, and the arrival of pollution control in former "Eastern Bloc" countries, a new mineral made the scene among crystal and gem collectors. Called Zincite, it was zinc oxide, ZnO, something that occurs in places like Franklin, New Jersey, but it's virtually never seen in the size and clarity of a new crop of specimens coming from Poland. The Polish zincites were deep red, sometimes yellow, or yellow to orange, and typically long, prismatic crystals. It turned out they were collected from the smoke stacks of zinc smelters, and obtained the size and beauty they displayed only because of the conditions in the smoke stack.
abhurite, which was found on the wreck of the SS Cheerful, which sank off the coast of Cornwall, England in 1885, and only formed because of a chemical reaction between the salt water and the ship's sunken supply of tin ingots. Given the right constituents, this could have formed anywhere.
I have to say it's interesting, but I'm not sure I'm convinced.