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Department of Mineralogy and Petrology


Welcome to Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Welcome to the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology, this vast field of knowledge of rare beauty.

Mineralogy and petrology are part of the core of every undergraduate geology curriculum worldwide, because minerals and rocks form the basis for interpreting the history of the Earth and the internal processes of the planet. Mineralogy and petrology are also important for addressing issues of societal concern, including natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides), natural resources (groundwater, base and critical metals, industrial minerals, precious and semi-precious stones) and human health issues (toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead, chromium in drinking water from mineral leaching in rocks).

Petrology is the study of rocks - igneous (from cooling and crystallisation of magma), sedimentary (from deposition in water and air) and metamorphic (from modification of any kind of pre-existing rock) - and the processes that create and transform them. Mineralogy is the study of the physical properties, chemical composition and internal crystal structure of the mineral constituents of rocks, as well as their occurrence and distribution in nature and their origin in relation to the physico-chemical conditions of their formation. Both petrological and mineralogical processes are sensitive to environmental conditions, so the chemical compositions of rocks, and the minerals of which they are composed, are being investigated to answer fundamental questions in a wide range of geological disciplines.

Minerals are our planet. They form the Earth and the solid bedrock on which we live, creating all the rocks, and are also important components of soils. They are literally the foundation of our life. Perhaps because they are ubiquitous, most people don't even notice them or think that all rocks are made up of minerals. But engineers are well aware of them, because building a bridge on unstable material or using improper components for construction of any kind would lead to disasters. And farmers are interested in minerals because fertile soils produce great crops. Petrologists who study rocks of all kinds need to know about minerals. And those who use mineral resources for industrial construction need minerals. So all the people in the world rely on minerals. It is obvious that minerals, their production and study are absolutely essential to sustain our way of life.

The use and processing of minerals has a history of over 4,000 years. In fact, archaeologists and anthropologists define major periods of early human civilization based on the mineral resources used (Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age). Metals such as copper, tin, iron and nickel were all important during those early millennia of human development and are just as important today. These metals - and many others - are essential parts of a seemingly infinite number of products that we use every day. Metals are derived from minerals.

If you ask most people today why minerals are important, they will probably refer to diamonds and other precious stones, or perhaps precious metals such as gold or silver. Gems and gold are important, but other mineral resources are equally, or more important. Highways and buildings, fertilizers, fertilizers, automobiles, jewelry, computers and other electronic devices, cookware, salt, magazines, vitamins and medicines, and almost everything that supports modern life requires mineral resources for its production. We are addicted to minerals and related products.

We use mineralogy and petrology to study the formation of volcanoes and their magmatic sources, the evolution of the continental crust during the development and destruction of mountain ranges, the genesis of unusual but essential minerals such as the phosphate of rare earths, the origin of economic concentrations of minerals and oil, the composition of the atmosphere, oceans and life on Earth over time, and the geological processes occurring on other planets. Sedimentary layers introduce us to the concept of geological time, while the composition and texture of sediments allow interpretations of ancient environments on Earth. Natural resources such as groundwater, coal and hydrocarbons are often associated with sedimentary environments.

The selective formation of volcanoes around the perimeter of the Pacific (the so-called 'ring of fire'), the recycling of water and carbon in the Earth's deep interior, the release of carbon dioxide from sediments when continents collide with each other have had important effects on climate cycles (such as the great warming that the Earth experienced 45 million years ago), the genesis of many industrial minerals and precious and semi-precious stones, the modern problem of sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the tracing of the origin of stone tools and marble structures (sculptures, temples), the identification of amino acids in mantle rocks in the depths of the oceans with hints of the origin of life, are all inextricably linked to mineralogical and petrological processes.