A Countdown of the Five Strangest Geological Formations

  1. Moeraki Boulders

These unusually large and spherical boulders are found lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the coast in New Zealand. The boulders are concretions made by the cementation of the Paleocene mudstone that was exhumed by coastal erosions. The boulders are estimated to have taken about 5 million years to form. After being analyzed, the boulders were found to be made of mud, fine silt and clay, cemented by calcite.

  1. Giants Causeway

In Northern Ireland, the Giants Causeway is an area of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. These columns are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and vanish into the sea. Similar basalt columns are found in Iceland, near the town of Vik. These perfectly hexagonal forms are typically found near sources of water, most commonly along coastlines or near streams and rivers.

  1. Cave of the Crystals

Located a thousand feet under Naica mountain in Chihuahua, Mexico, the Cave of Crystals is a cave connected to the Naica Mine. The main cave contains massive selenite crystals, some of the largest natural crystals ever found. Hydrated sulfate gypsum is believed to have crystallized at a very slow rate over half a million years to form these huge crystals. Currently, only scientists are able to visit the Crystal Cave. Other caves continue to be discovered beneath Naica, including the Queen’s Eye, Candles Cave, Ice Palace, and Cave of Swords.

  1. Chocolate Hills

The Chocolate Hills is a geological formation in Bohol province in the Philippines. There are around 1,700 of these conical karst hills spread over an area of more than 20 square miles. They are covered in green grass that turns brown during the dry season and look like endless rows of chocolate kisses, giving the hills their name. The conical and symmetrical rolling hills are actually grass covered marine limestone.

  1. Salar de Uyuni

Found in southwest Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni Is the world’s largest salt flat at 4,086 square miles. It contains around 10 billion tons of salt. The salt flat is located near the crest of the Andes, at an altitude of 11,995 feet above sea level. The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes about 42,000 years ago. The Salar contains large amounts of sodium, potassium, lithium, magnesium, and borax. Currently, it holds between 50-70% of the world’s lithium reserves.


Miners Hopeful After US Lifts Sanctions

Myanmar Map The country of Myanmar produces more than 80 percent of the world’s rubies. North of the city Mandalay is a valley named Mogok that is known as the “land of rubies.” Mogok is where the Sunrise Ruby was found. The gem sold for $30.3 million last year and is one of the so-called “pigeon-blood” stones, known to be one of the most expensive colored gems in the world. Pigeon’s-blood red is considered the most precious hue of all according to the American Gemological Laboratories color rating system.

Every day, thousands of natives in Myanmar barely make a living mining for gems, hoping to one day find the ruby that could change their lives. Production in the Mogok region has skyrocketed since the mid-1990s, when the former junta rulers allowed private companies into the region with their heavy machinery and new mining methods.

In 2003, the United States implemented sanctions that would stop the import of gems from Myanmar. This effort was imposed in an effort to starve the military government of its funds. Miners usually earn about $200 dollars or less a month working in the mines. For decades, the junta military and ex-army chiefs oversaw the mining industry. Even though the Mogok valley is filled with mines, the locals see very little of the profits. Mogok is not only a source of rubies, but also sapphires, spinel, peridot, zircon, topaz, and others. It is also a source of the rare painite gemstones.

In October 2016, the US lifted sanctions that prevented imports of rubies as a result of Myanmar’s shift towards democracy under its new government. Sellers of stones in the region hope that the end of these sanctions will see a surge in American tourists and new business. In the past, high-quality gems such as red rubies and blue sapphires were sent to black markets in Thailand. The gem market in Myanmar is optimistic that with ruby prices going up and US companies entering the market, US dealers will be returning to do business. Chief executive Douglas Hucker from the American Gem Trade Association says that they will only work with “licensed dealers and seek to determine that the gemstones they are buying are sources responsibly.”

To prevent further exploitation of Myanmar’s gemstones, the government implemented a moratorium last July on new mining licenses. Companies will have to meet stricter environmental regulations to get mining permits. US buyers will also have to follow stricter international rules to make sure mines enforce good working conditions. These new efforts will help ensure that profits don’t fuel Myanmar’s conflicts with rebels.