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Calcites from Malaysia

 

Calcites from Gunung Keriang, Malaysia

by Tomasz Praszkier

 


   Malaysia, is located in the Southeast Asia, partly on Malay Peninsula and partly on Borneo Island. It has not been known as a source of mineral specimens so far. That situation is mostly due to geology, thick vegetation, political situation and lack of explorers who spend their time looking for specimens. The find of calcites, described in this short note, is the first bigger find after some stibnites and cassiterites that reached the market in 1970's. 

   Gunung Keriang is located 8 km from Alor Star town in Kedah Province, in the most northern part of the continental part of Malaysia, close to Thailand border. Gunung Keriang hill is a spectacular outlier, over 200 m high and 1 km in diameter, protruding from the flat surroundings covered mostly with rice fields. Relatively flat top is surrounded by vertical cliffs.

   Gunung Keriang hill is built by massive Lower Triassic limestones, dated at about 250 million years old. Typically for this part of the world carbonate massifs are strongly karstified. During that process big caves systems were formed with abundant speleothems, as well as locally developed low temperature carbonate mineralization (aragonite and calcite). In Gunung Keriang numerous caves and karstic cavities are present, some of very big sizes. The biggest cave called Gua Keriang is going through the hill and is used as hiking trail.

   Massif limestones building the hill have been mined for decades in quarries, and used for construction purposes. In this process many karstic cavities with interesting speleotehms and unusually shaped limestones were discovered. With growing interest of local tourists coming to visit this spectacular hill those fascinating rocks became a "souvenir product". Today small souvenir shops specialize in so called "crystals" - in fact oddly shaped weathered fragments of limestones, speleothems or aragonites. They are sold as decoration objects, not as real mineral specimens. Because of this demand some of the local miners, after the local quarries got closed, explore the hill in search of "crystals". During such exploration, in the early 2021, they found unique, huge pocket covered with well developed calcite crystals. Cavity was irregular in shape, many meters long, and in some places tall enough so people could stand inside (see video). All cavity walls were covered by white to colorless calcite crystals, from a few to 10 cm big. Miners from Gunung Keriang were not used to collect "real" mineral specimens and because of that the vast majority of themwas damaged during extraction. Fortunately still a fair number survived in good shape.

   Habit of the calcite crystals found in the big pocket is unusual. They are very elongated, prismatic, at first glance they remind quartz crystals clusters. Termination of the crystals is formed by rhombohedrons of two orders, and prism faces are probably very steep scalenohedrons. They got well visible striation and usually good to medium luster. In some areas of the cavity, beside of the simple clusters, "cactus calcites" were present. They are characterised by the biggest "core" crystal overgrown by much smaller crystals growing perpendicularly from it. Color of the calcite is usually white to colorless in transparent crystals, with reddish hint on the lower part of the crystals, which is probably caused by micro-inclusions of terra rossa.

   Spirifer Minerals was lucky to acquire majority of the better quality specimens. Size of them ranges from a few cm to over 30 cm, with crystals usually ranging from 5 to 8 cm.

 

Malaysia on the world map.

 

Calcite location - Gunung Keriang - marked on the map of Malaysia.

 

Location of the Gunung Keriang hill - outlier built by the Lower Triassic limestones.

 

Gunung Keriang hill - outlier build by the Lower Triassic limestones.

 

Aerial view of the Gunung Keriang hill - outlier build by the Lower Triassic limestones.

 

Gunung Keriang hill - outlier build by  the Lower Triassic limestones.

 

Gunung Keriang hill surrounded by the rice fields.

 

Souvenir shops, some with "crystals", at the foothill of Gunung Keriang.

 

Souvenir shops with "crystals", located at the foothill of Gunung Keriang.

 

Souvenir shop with "crystals" - in fact weathered limestones and speleothems from the Gunung Keriang hill.

 

Souvenir shop with "crystals" - in fact weathered limestones and speleothems from the Gunung Keriang hill.

 

Diggers climbing on the Gunung Keriang hill to their digging. They use tourist trails. 

 

Diggers on the way to their digging. They use tourist trails going through Gua Keriang cave. 

 

Diggers on the way to their digging. They use tourist trails going through Gua Keriang cave. 

 

Diggers on the way to their digging. They use tourist trails going through Gua Keriang cave. 

 

Miners exploring the karstic cavities.

 

Miners exploring the karstic cavities.

 

Exploration for "crystals".

 

Miner inside the karstic cavity with well developed "real" calcite crystals.

 

Miner inside the karstic cavity with well developed "real" calcite crystals.

 

Fragment of the karstic cavity lined with well developed calcite crystals. Field of view around 1,5 m.

 

Unique video showing the huge karstic cavity covered with well developed calcite crystals, discovered in the early 2021 in Gunung Keriang.

Unique video showing the huge karstic cavity covered with well developed calcite crystals, discovered in the early 2021 in Gunung Keriang.

 

Cluster of well developed calcite crystals, extracted from the pocket discovered in the early 2021 in the Gunung Keriang.

 

Cluster of well developed calcite crystals, extracted from the pocket discovered in the early 2021 in the Gunung Keriang.

 

Cluster of well developed calcite crystals, extracted from the pocket discovered in the early 2021 in the Gunung Keriang.

 

Cluster of well developed calcite crystals, extracted from the pocket discovered in the early 2021 in the Gunung Keriang.

 

Cluster of well developed calcite crystals with secondary growth of smaller crystals surrounding the bigger ones, extracted from the pocket discovered in the early 2021 in the Gunung Keriang.

 

Cluster of well developed calcite crystals with secondary growth of smaller crystals surrounding the bigger ones, extracted from the pocket discovered in the early 2021 in the Gunung Keriang.

 

Cluster of well developed calcite crystals with secondary growth of smaller crystals surrounding the bigger ones, extracted from the pocket discovered in the early 2021 in the Gunung Keriang.

 

Cluster of well developed calcite crystals with secondary growth of smaller crystals surrounding the bigger ones, extracted from the pocket discovered in the early 2021 in the Gunung Keriang. Specimen size 14 cm.

 

One of the best calcite specimens extracted from the pocket discovered in the early 2021 in Gunung Keriang. Specimen size 34 cm.

 

Sunset at the Gunung Keriang, Malaysia.



  Comments

This cave is... breath-taking!
Kuba
2021-10-05 22:01:13
Congratulations on the new find and once again an excellent article !
Sami Makki
2021-10-08 02:08:26
Thanks!
Tomek
2021-10-08 15:07:51
I always feel a little smarter after reading one of your articles.
Tall Paul
2021-10-09 01:21:35
Thanks Paul! ;-)
Tomek
2021-10-12 09:57:01
Nice pictures and calcite.
Calcite does not last long in that environment.
But certainly a life time. Imagine how most caves are destroyed forever by this destructive for profit mining.
I have been able to see similar exposures in caves, because they are protected. I have seen dead/bare caves because they were mined out.
Mr Calcite
2021-10-15 03:17:01
Enhorabuena una vez mas amigo Tom, como siempre tus reportajes son excelentes, nos vemos en Munich, un abrazo.
Eduardo Lloréns
2021-10-15 12:14:00


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