FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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Is there oil or natural gas in New York?

Yes, although not as well known as Texas and other big oil producing states, New York has a history of oil and gas production. In fact the first natural gas well in the country was dug in Fredonia by William Hart (1821). The first commercially successful oil well in the world was drilled just south of Jamestown in Titusville, Pennsylvania (1859). Currently, New York produces about 398,000 barrels of oil and 26,000 bcf of gas per year.


Is my property in the area where Utica or Marcellus Shale Gas
drilling will take place?

Both the Utica and Marcellus Shales are “blanket” formations that cover much of the central and western part of the state. There are several different factors that play into a company’s choice well location, therefore it is possible that anyone living where these formations exist could be approached regarding the sale their mineral rights. For more information regarding the shale gas plays see the Oil and Gas portion of the Current Research section of this site or visit the NY DEC website (http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/46288.html).


What is geologic carbon sequestration?

Carbon sequestration is a process by which CO2 from large sources such as power plants and factories is captured and injected into porous geologic formations where it is safely trapped underground rather than being released into the atmosphere. Carbon Sequestration is related to the petroleum industry because they involve many of the same exploration techniques and depleted oil fields often make excellent sequestration reservoirs.


Does New York have gems and precious metals?

New York has several minerals that can be cut into beautiful gemstones.  Unfortunately, most of these are too fragile to wear as jewelry. Despite many stories and newspaper reports, precious metals are very scarce and none has ever been profitably mined.

Gemstones are rare and exceptionally perfect specimens of what may be relatively common minerals.  These may be faceted or polished for use in jewelry.  However, these minerals are constituents of certain, specific rocks.  If these rocks are not present in a given area, then that region will not be the host of gemstone deposits.  This is the case in New York, at least with regard to minerals that are most commonly considered gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies or sapphires.  While New York is geologically diverse, it does not have the correct rocks to host gemstone deposits.

Diamonds, for instance, are found in rocks known as kimberlite.  None exists in New York.  A closely related rock does exist and a century-old newspaper report states that a diamond was found in this rock near Syracuse.  However, the specimen has been lost and recent geological studies of these rocks indicate that the chemical conditions at the time of formation of the rocks would not have allowed diamonds to survive.

No emerald, a green form of the mineral beryl, has been found in New York, although a small amount of aquamarine, the blue green form of beryl, has been discovered.  Ruby and sapphire are varieties of corundum. Very little of this mineral occurs here and the red and blue corundum that does exist would hardly be called gem material.

New York does host “gemmy” varieties of some common rock-forming minerals which have been cut into attractive gemstones.  These include quartz, calcite, fluorite of several colors, sphalerite, moonstone, labradorite, and celestine.  Many of these, while attractive, are not sufficiently durable to wear as jewelry.

The same geological conditions that prevent New York from being a gem-producing region limit the potential for precious metals such as gold, silver or platinum.  Despite dozens of reports, literally thousands of claims and a century of prospecting, very little gold has been found in New York and none has ever been profitably mined.   Gold mining stock swindles have produced the only gold values in this state.  The New York State Museum has a few millimeter-size flakes of gold from New York localities in its collections.  Silver is recovered during the smelting of New York  zinc in the range of a few tens of thousands of ounces annually.  Only a few specimens of silver metal have been found.  Although a Plattsburgh newspaper reported the discovery of a four ounce nugget of platinum in the late 1800’s, none of this metal has ever been reliably found.


Have meteorites fallen in New York?

Shooting stars that cross our night sky are not really stars but pieces of rock burning in the atmosphere.

Shooting stars are meteors – meteorites when they hit the ground.  Most meteorites are made of stone, but since they look like ordinary rock they are seldom recognized.  It is the more rare iron meteorites that dominate collections.  Twelve meteorites have been recovered in New York, the most recently in Peekskill in 1992.

Meteorites categories:
Iron – 98% nickel-iron alloy and 2% minerals
Stony-iron – 50% nickel-iron alloy and 50% minerals
Stone – less than 23% nickel-iron alloy

What to look for?

  • Meteorites are magnetic and heavy for their size.
  • Meteorites can be nearly any shape but are usually blocky and irregular with smooth edges.
  • Melting during passage through the atmosphere produces a black crust.
  • Iron meteorites may be rusty.
  • Stony meteorites have a dark interior with shiny metal flakes.
  • Iron meteorites are silvery and metallic inside.
  • Meteorites do not contain gas bubbles.
  • Meteorites are easily confused with raw iron ore or slag.


Meterorites Found in New York
Name
Type
County
Yr Found
Latitude
Longitude
Bethlehem H Albany 8/11/1859 42°32'N 73°50'W
Burlington IIIE Otsego 1819 42°45'N 75°11'W
Cambria IRUNG R Niagra 1818 43°12'N 78°48'W
Lasher Creek iron Montgomery 1948 42°50'N 78°48'W
Mount Morris H Livingston 1897 42°42'N 77°53'W
Peekskill H6 Westchester 10/9/1992 41°17'N 73°55'W
Schenectady H5 Glenville 4/12/1968 42°51'39N 73°57'1W
Scriba   Oswego 1834 43°27'N 76°26'W
Seneca Falls IIIA Cayuga 1850 42°55'N 76°47'W
South Byron IRUNG R Genesee 1915 43°2'N 78°2'W
Tomhannock Creek H5 Rensselaer 1863 42°53'N 73°36'W
Yorktown L5 Westchester 9/1869 41°17'N 73°49'W

 


Where do minerals form?

Minerals form as parts of rocks, either when the rock was created or later.

Minerals grow as components of igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic rocks and can sometimes be found more than one type of  rock.  Some minerals crystallize from hot water moving through the rocks long after the host rock formed. The most impressive minerals specimens grow in open spaces created by gas bubbles, fissures or the decay of fossils.

Minerals found in igneous rocks cooled and hardened from molten liquid.  Minerals in sedimentary rocks are bits of older rocks redeposited by water, wind or glaciers or are directly precipitated from water. As igneous or sedimentary rock are transformed by intense heat and pressure, metamorphic minerals form.

Minerals typically found in New York rocks.

IGNEOUS ROCKS: Quartz, feldspar, muscovite, biotite, pyroxene, amphibole.

SEDIMENTARY ROCKS: Quartz, salt, gypsum, calcite, fluorite, dolomite, sphalerite, celestine.

METAMORPHIC ROCKS: Garnet, tourmaline, staurolite, sillimanite, magnetite, hematite, chorite.


What are Herkimer diamonds?

The minerals of the Little Falls Dolostone are among the most famous in New York State. The Little Falls Dolostone is rock of late Cambrian age that formed at the bottom of a shallow sea about 495 million years ago. It crops out in the Mohawk Valley in Herkimer and Montgomery counties south of the Adirondacks.

The material that would later form the beautiful crystallized minerals in this display case was probably deposited as quartz sand (SiO2), pyrite formed by bacteria and waxy, organic material.  All of this material was encased in rock that was made up of two carbonate minerals, dolomite and calcite.

As the Little Falls Dolostone was slowly buried by new sediments, the temperature slowly rose from 20 degrees C to 175 degrees C or slightly higher. The burial process took about 200 million years and reached a maximum depth of approximately 5 kilometers about 300 million years ago. Molecules of organic material helped to hold silica (SiO2) in solution.  As the temperature rose, these organic molecules were destroyed so that the silica could precipitate from solution, forming quartz crystals. Because burial was extremely slow, formation of the quartz crystals was also extremely slow allowing many to grow clear and gemmy which is why they are called "Herkimer Diamonds" or "Little Falls Diamonds". 

Other minerals formed before, during, and after the slow crystallization of the quartz.  Dolomite and pyrite often formed earlier while calcite sometimes formed at the same time as the quartz, but more often afterwards. The black spots in the quartz crystals, the black tar-like material in the cavities, and the microscopic grains that make some of the quartz crystals brown or black are all remnants of the organic material that was essential to the formation of the unusually clear and flawless crystals.


How are minerals classified?

The fundamental unit of classification in mineralogy is the species.   The exact definition of a mineral species has varied from time to time and is periodically reexamined. Minerals are defined on the basis of their chemical composition and crystal structure.  However, strict application of these principles, while leading to theoretically logical conclusions, often generates practical difficulties.  These problems are usually overcome by using a rather flexible interpretation of the term “mineral species”.   For example, a range of chemical compositions, within limits, is acceptable for a single mineral species.
           
In order to deal systematically with minerals, a method of classification is needed.  The purpose of any classification system is to bring like things together and separate them from things that are unlike.  In 1850, Dana’s System of Mineralogy was published and since that time, mineral classification has been based primarily on chemical classification. That is, minerals are grouped by chemical class such as sulfides, oxides, halides, carbonates, silicates, etc. depending on the nature of the type of negative ions, or groups of negative ions, present in the mineral.  A slightly outdated, but relatively simple, list of mineral classes is given here.

Class Chemical Description
I Native elements
II Sulfides and sulfosalts
III Oxides and hydroxides
IV Halides
V Carbonates, nitrates, borates, iodates
VI Sulfates, chromate’s, molybdates, tungstates
VII Phosphates, arsenates, vanadates
VIII Silicates

Individual classes can be divided into subclasses on chemical or atomic structural grounds. In the most recent classification of minerals, the eight classes shown above number seventy-eight. 

The next, more specific, division of minerals is into groups.  Most groups include species that are closely related chemically or structurally such as the feldspar group or the amphibole group.  Sometimes minerals are grouped based upon similarity in association or occurrence such as the feldspathoids or zeolite groups.  Mineral groups are divided into species or series.  For example, the zeolite group is divided into several species while the pyroxene group is divided into monoclinic and orthorhombic series and each of these two series is divided into species. 

Below the species level of classification, subspecies and varieties exist.  Subspecies are chemical compositional divisions within a range of compositions.  Labradorite is a subspecies of the species plagioclase.  High- or low-temperature forms of a single mineral species are often considers subspecies.  Varieties may have distinctive physical properties such as color or some unusual chemical component.  The use of separate, varietal names for minerals is now being abandoned. 

(Adapted from Mineralogy, Concepts, Descriptions, Determinations, L.G. Berry & Brian Mason)


Why do mineral crystals have specific shapes?

The specimens on display in the Mineral Gallery of the New York State Museum exhibit many different shapes.  There seems to be an endless number of crystal forms, which, at first glance, can be quite confusing.  While it is true that there are many variations, all crystal shapes can be placed into a small number of crystal systems.   The crystal systems are based upon similarities in the geometry of mineral crystals.   Since the outward form of a crystal depends the internal arrangement of atomic building blocks, it is not surprising that within each crystal system there are basic building blocks that have characteristic proportions and angles.

Nature likes to keep things simple.  The simplest crystal shape, a cube, is Nature’s attempt to pack the greatest number of atoms into the least space.  If all atoms were the same size, all crystals would belong to one crystal system.  However, atoms vary a great deal in characteristics such as size and electrical charge. For this reason, all atoms cannot fit into a simple cubic system.  In fact, six crystal systems are needed to accommodate all the possible variations.  

An easy way to describe crystals, and crystal systems, is to refer to imaginary lines called crystal axes drawn through the center of the crystal.   Each crystal can be imagined to have an axis running front to back, a second axis oriented side to side and a third from top to bottom.  In the simplest case, the cube, all of these axes are of equal length and all are perpendicular to each other.  Each of the crystal systems is related to the others by small but significant changes in the lengths of and angles between the crystal axes.  For example, if the length of the vertical axis of a cubic crystal is changed, while the other axial lengths and angles remain the same, the crystal system changes from cubic (isometric) to tetragonal.

The characteristics of the angles and axial lengths of the crystal systems can be summarized as follows.  The diagrams below illustrate the relations of the axes and angles of the six crystal systems.

Name Characteristics
Isometric All axes is equal in length and perpendicular to each other.

Tetragonal The vertical axis is not the same length as the horizontal axes.
All axes are perpendicular to each other.

Hexagonal The vertical axis is not the same length as the horizontal axes.
The horizontal axes (3) are 120° apart and at right angles to the vertical axis.

Orthorhombic All axes are of unequal length. All axes are perpendicular to each other.

Monoclinic All axes are of unequal length. Two axes are at right angles while the third axis is inclined.

Triclinic All axes is of unequal length.
None are at right angles to another.

Adapted from Mineralogy for Amateurs, John Sinkankas

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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