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Mineralogical Almanac  

Min Almanac_#7

Minerals of  Kerch Iron-Ore Basin in Eastern Crimea by Nikita V. Chukanov

Mineralogical Almanac, volume 8, 2005. Famous Mineral Localities Series
112 pp., 147 color plates, 49 black drawings and photos, soft cover.
Price: $45

The issue contains the most comprehensive description of the Kerch iron- ore basin, including historical and geological sketches. Besides ore deposits some other geological  phenomena of the region are described. Mineralogical description of 160 mineral species is the main part of the volume, the most interesting minerals being characterized in details.

The author has been studying the Kerch mineralogy for more then 20 years and at present is one of the most knowledgeable experts of the region.

Supporting organizations:
Lomonosov Moscow State University
Russian Geological Society



Located at the eastern part of the Crimea Peninsula, the Kerch iron-ore deposits are well known through excellent vivianite, anapaite, rhodochrosite, barite specimens, as well as many other minerals, shown in many world museum mineralogical collections. Less known is the fact that the Kerch basin is also remarkable by the diversity of mineral occurrences. Within the basin limits at least 160 different mineral species are known, the most interesting belonging to the phosphate class. Two new minerals, anapaite and mitridatite, have been discovered in this formation, and recently a large number of new for Kerch minerals have been found, that are remarkable by their rarity, uncommonness, and beauty of the specimens. Examples which can be mentionned are goyazite, messelite, spheniscidite, kutnahorite, feroxyhyte, ferrihydrite, and many others.
Kerch iron-ore deposits are issued from Cimmerian (i. e. middle Pliocene) sediments in an ancient sea, full of living organisms; because of that many minerals occur in the form of pseudomorphs after fragments of fossilized animals and plants, or crystal druses inside large shells. These very diverse fossils are often very well preserved, making the Kerch basin an attractive object for paleontologists. Minerals occurring in fossils are diverse: pseudomorphs of aragonite, calcite, rhodochrosite, siderite, vivianite, anapaite, barite, gypsum, santabarbaraite, mitridatite, carbonate-hydroxylapatite, and many other minerals have been formed after mollusk shells, bones, tree stocks, testae of crawfishes etc. Quite often beautiful crystal druses of bottle-green and dark blue vivianite, light green anapaite, honey-yellow barite, water-transparent gypsum crystals with inclusions of mitridatite and santabarbaraite, spherulite crusts of soft-pink rhodochrosite, manganese-enriched calcite, as well as many other mineral phases, are found in the former mollusk shells.
The Kerch Peninsula is a region of active mud volcanism, an extremely interesting and insufficiently investigated natural phenomenon. In particular, the Bulganak field of mud volcanoes, known for diverse boron-rich mineralizations, is located in the North part of the Kerch iron-ore basin. Many other minerals or rocks occurring in this region are not directly connected to the iron ore deposits, but they are also of considerable mineralogical interest, with notably occurrences of melanophlogite, native sulfur, as well as different sulphates (concretions of jarosite, natrojarosite, aluminite, basaluminite, gypsum “roses” sometimes intergrowing with large kidney-shaped aggregates of vernadite etc.).
Geologically speaking, the Kerch iron ores are quite young: they finally formed only at the end of the Neogene period. During the visit of iron-ore deposits, one has often the feeling of an immediate connection between geological processes leading to the ore deposition and contemporary ones, presently taking place at the Earth’s surface. In the sea cliffs of the Kerch Peninsula the layers of iron-ores with exotic mineralization and rests of antique towns occur side by side. At the very east of the Crimea Peninsula, this piece of land, where smell of sea mixes with steppe tart aroma, where many visible evidences of post geological epochs and human cultures had come together so closely, has uncommon attractive force.
Since the middle of the Holocene, Crimea is densely populated, as evidenced by the numerous sites of the Stone Age. Herodotus mentions that the steppe of Crimea was inhabited by Cimmerians at the Bronze Age. At the boundary of 8th-7th centuries BC the Cimmerians were replaced by the Scythians. Up to now tumuli, burial-vaults of Scythian tsars tower above steppe; they had nearly the same goal than the Great Pyramids in Egypt. During several centuries the famous Bosporos State was located on Kerch Peninsula territory. Its capital Panticapaeum (meaning “fish way” in North-Iran dialect), established by the Greeks-Milesians even in 6th century BC, was situated at the place of contemporary Kerch. A number of towns: Acra, Parthenon, Nimphea, Mirmekia, Ahilion, Heraclea etc. were grouped around Panticapaeum. During its prosperity, the Bosporos State was a powerful Hellene-Scythian Empire which developed its own economics, particularly based on metallurgy. Among all probability, weapons, nails, and other articles were made here from iron, smelted from Kerch ores. Relics of defense rampart extending across the Kerch Peninsula along West boundary of the Bosporos State are preserved until now. At the northern slope of Mt. Mitridat (within the boundaries of contemporary Kerch), a well-kept town of Roman Epoch has been found. Excavations of this “Russian Pompeii” were carried out since the end of 19th century, and at this time walls of buildings covered with frescos have been uncovered, together with a large number of articles of archeological value. In 107 BC the rebellion of Scythian population flared up, continued in following years by wars of Tsar Mithradates against Rome. A sa consequence, the capital of the Bosporos State was almost destroyed. Economics of the Kerch Peninsula was revived already under authority of the Romans. In the first centuries AD the Bosporos State went through the next stormy period, related to the strengthening of nomadic Sarmatian tribes. There are indications that the region was progressively christianized. In 1895, a catacomb dated by the end of 5th century, one of the most ancient monument of early Christianity in Crimea, was found in Kerch.
The more recent history of the Kerch Peninsula is exceptionally complicated; very different civilizations had contacts there, not always peacefully. The Bosporos State was first exposed to raids by the Goths, then by Huns and other turkish-speaking tribes. Later Panticapaeum was under the authority of the Byzantines, then of the Arabs; in the 7th century the town was occupied by the Khazars. At the same time, the Slavs reached the coasts of the Kerch strait. They dominated the northern areas round the Black Sea until the 9th-10th centuries. After the foundation of Tmutorokan (Tmutorakhan) principality, the Black Sea was named the Russian Sea by Eastern geographers, and the Kerch strait – the Russian River. At that time the town Kerch was named Korchev (presumably from the word “korcha”, i. e. “smithy”). During the 10th-12th centuries, the Tmutorokan principality, part of Kievian Rus, occupied the land on both sides of the Kerch strait. In the 12th century, Kerch was exposed to raids and destructions of the nomads. Since the middle of 13th century, the Genoeses and Venetians settled down at the coasts of the Kerch strait, followed by the Tatars. Later (since 1453) the Crimean Khanate, fragment of the once powerful Golden Horde, should become a vassal of Turkish Sultan for a long time. At that time the natural ressources of the Kerch Peninsula had only been discovered to a small degree, limited to the extraction of salt and building stones, and Kerch was only a small fortress. In 1783, Kerch was annexed to Russia. During World War II the city was destroyed; On May 20, 1942, German-fascist troops occupied the Kerch Peninsula. Some fighters, which had protected the crossing of Soviet army at the Taman Peninsula, went to the Ajimushkai stone pits, which became the center of underground stronghold. Only few of these soldiers remained alive. At present, the Kerch Peninsula, as well as the whole Crimea, belongs to Ukraina independant state.
Every stone on this lands seems fragrant with history. Here it is possible to view ruins of ancient towns excavated by archeologists, tumuli and crypts preserved until now, admire objects used by people thousands years ago. Antiquity and medieval architecture monuments alone, falling under the state protection law, account to more than hundred thirty. At present, it is also worth to mention that Kerch is included in the international UNESCO project “Silk Road”.
The development of mineral resources in the Kerch Peninsula has also an old history. First of all, the ancient Greeks mined building stones for the building of their first settlements. They discovered the Kerch iron ores, which since has been widely used. In 1948 pieces of iron, slags, fragments of smelting furnace were found in one of the excavations of Panticapaeum, in the cultural layer of the 1st century BC. Near Odessa an iron-working workshop dated of the end of the 7th century BC was excavated, using exclusively Kerch iron ore as raw material (Cheremovskii, 2000). Mineral pigments from iron-ore deposits were found during archeological excavations of burial places of the 8th century AD. However, the active industrial exploitation of iron-ore deposits began only during the 19th century; and for a long time (up to the end of 20th century) mining was made here in large quarries.
During the preparation of this work I.V. Pekov, initiator of the idea of the present publication and its editor, provided a great assistance in the collection of information, illustrations and mineralogical materials. We express our gratitude to Kerchian collectors, A.P. Demankov, V.A. Konstantinov, K.A. Elishevich, and also to the curators of the Fersman Mineralogical Museum RAS, D.I. Belakovskii and M.E. Generalov, and the director of the Museum, M.I. Novgorodova, who, besides giving the permission to photograph unique mineral specimens of minerals, have provided a great number of important factual data. Valuable historical material was kindly given by N.V. Perepyolkina, the senior researcher of the Kerch State Historico-Cultural Museum, and P.I. Ivanenko, director of Kerch State Historico-Cultural Museum; a number of data related to the mineralogy of Kerchian ores was given by mineralogists S.N. Britvin (State University, Saint-Petersburg) and A.I. Tishchenko (Institute of Mineral Resources, Simferopol). O.M. Chukanova provided a great assistance for the collection of minerals. A number of electron microprobe analyses of mineral chemical composition was made by A.N. Nekrasov (Institute of Experimental Mineralogy RAS, Chernogolovka). The author expresses his great thanks to all of them.

Acknowledgements. Many thanks extended to Terry E. Huizing (Cincinnati, Ohio) - Representative of Mineralogical Almanac in United States of America and Canada and our friends Irena and Eric Rook (Tucson, Arizona), Irina and Gregory Abramov (Denver, Colorado) and Henri and Yolande Brillant (Paris, France) for their continuing help and support.



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