Naica Mine

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Enormous gypsum crystals in a Naica cavern, found during mining. Note person at bottom right for scale. Cristales cueva de Naica.JPG
Enormous gypsum crystals in a Naica cavern, found during mining. Note person at bottom right for scale.

The Naica Mine of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, is a working mine that contains extremely large selenite crystals. [1] [2] Located in Naica in the municipality of Saucillo, the Naica Mine is a lead, zinc and silver mine operated by Industrias Peñoles, Mexico's largest lead producer. [3] Caverns discovered during mining operations contain crystals of selenite (gypsum) as large as 1.2 m (4 ft) in diameter and 15 m (50 ft) long. Peñoles announced in October 2015 that it was indefinitely suspending operations at Naica Mine. [4]

Chihuahua (state) State of Mexico

Chihuahua, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Chihuahua, is one of the 31 states of Mexico. It is located in Northwestern Mexico and is bordered by the states of Sonora to the west, Sinaloa to the southwest, Durango to the south, and Coahuila to the east. To the north and northeast, it has a long border with the U.S. adjacent to the U.S. states of New Mexico and Texas. Its capital city is Chihuahua City.

Mining The extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth

Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually from an ore body, lode, vein, seam, reef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized package that is of economic interest to the miner.

Selenite (mineral) mineral variety

Selenite, also known as satin spar, desert rose, or gypsum flower are four crystal structure varieties of the mineral gypsum. These four varieties of gypsum may be grouped together and called selenite.


Currently, the high temperature is 58° C (136° F) with 99% humidity, which interferes with breathing and increases the risk of asphyxiation. Because of this, researchers can only stay up to 10 min inside the cave and longer visits require the use of a specialized suit with an oxygen supply.

Cave of the Crystals

Location of the Swords and Crystal caves with the gypsum crystals within the idealized block diagram of Naica mine Naica Ubicacion de las cuevas en la mina.jpg
Location of the Swords and Crystal caves with the gypsum crystals within the idealized block diagram of Naica mine

The Cave of Crystals is a cave approximately 300 m (1,000 ft) below the surface in the limestone host rock of the mine. The chamber contains giant selenite crystals, some of the largest natural crystals ever found. [5] [6] The selenite crystals were formed by hydrothermal fluids emanating from the magma chambers below. The cavern was discovered while the miners were drilling through a newly drained area. The caves are closed to the public, and remain closed after a worker tried to enter the cave to steal some of the selenite, only to suffocate and die in the cave's humid and inhospitable atmosphere. [7] After enough research on the crystals has been carried out, some of the chambers will be allowed to flood again and continue the process of crystal growth.

Magma Mixture of molten or semi-molten rock, volatiles and solids that is found beneath the surface of the Earth

Magma is the molten or semi-molten natural material from which all igneous rocks are formed. Magma is found beneath the surface of the Earth, and evidence of magmatism has also been discovered on other terrestrial planets and some natural satellites. Besides molten rock, magma may also contain suspended crystals and gas bubbles. Magma is produced by melting of the mantle and/or the crust at various tectonic settings, including subduction zones, continental rift zones, mid-ocean ridges and hotspots. Mantle and crustal melts migrate upwards through the crust where they are thought to be stored in magma chambers or trans-crustal crystal-rich mush zones. During their storage in the crust, magma compositions may be modified by fractional crystallization, contamination with crustal melts, magma mixing, and degassing. Following their ascent through the crust, magmas may feed a volcano or solidify underground to form an intrusion. While the study of magma has historically relied on observing magma in the form of lava flows, magma has been encountered in situ three times during geothermal drilling projects—twice in Iceland, and once in Hawaii.

The Cave of Swords

The Cave of Swords is another chamber in the Naica Mine, also containing gypsum crystals but each "only" about a meter long, due to the fact that these crystals are younger and had been growing for much less time by the time they were discovered. [6]

See also

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Gypsum mineral, calcium sulfate with bounded water

Gypsum is a soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is widely mined and is used as a fertilizer and as the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard chalk and wallboard. A massive fine-grained white or lightly tinted variety of gypsum, called alabaster, has been used for sculpture by many cultures including Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ancient Rome, the Byzantine Empire and the Nottingham alabasters of Medieval England. Gypsum also crystallizes as beautiful translucent crystals of selenite (mineral). It also forms as an evaporite mineral and as a hydration product of anhydrite.

Wookey Hole Caves cave in United Kingdom

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Geode hollow formation inside a rock

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Desert rose (crystal) rose-like formations of crystal clusters of gypsum or baryte which include abundant sand grains

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Alabaster Caverns State Park

Alabaster Caverns State Park is a 200-acre (0.81 km2) state park approximately 4.5 miles (7.2 km) south of Freedom, Oklahoma, United States near Oklahoma State Highway 50. The park attracted 24,706 visitors in FY 2016, The lowest count of the three parks in its part of Oklahoma. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, the park Previously attracted about 40,000 visitors per year. It is home to the largest natural gypsum cave in the world that is open to the public. The gypsum is mostly in the form of alabaster. There are several types of alabaster found at the site, including pink, white, and the rare black alabaster. This black alabaster can be found in only three veins in the world, one each in Oklahoma, Italy and China. Another form of gypsum can be found in the many selenite crystal formations.

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Peñoles Penoles

Peñoles is a subsidiary company owned by Grupo BAL. Peñoles is the second largest Mexican mining company, the first Mexican producer of gold, zinc and lead and the world leader in silver production. Peñoles is a company with active mines within Mexico and with some prospection projects in South America. Holdings includes the Fresnillo Silver Mine / Mina Proaño, the Met-Mex Peñoles metallurgical complex and Química del Rey; a Chemical facility; three operations. Peñoles produces about 80,500,000 troy ounces (2,500,000 kg) of silver and 756,100 troy ounces (23,520 kg) of gold annually. Other metals that the company produces are zinc, lead, copper, bismuth, and cadmium.

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Naica Town in Chihuahua, Mexico

Naica is a town in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It is located in the municipality of Saucillo. As of 2010, the town of Naica had a population of 4,938, up from 4,775 in the 2005 INEGI Census.

Cave of the Crystals cave

Cave of the Crystals or Giant Crystal Cave is a cave connected to the Naica Mine at a depth of 300 metres (980 ft), in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Gruta de Maquiné cave in Brazil

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  1. García-Ruiz, Juan Manuel, et al., 2007, Formation of natural gypsum megacrystals in Naica, Mexico, Geology, 35(4): p. 327 doi : 10.1130/G23393A.1
  2. Van Driessche, Alexander E.S. et al., (2011). "Ultraslow growth rates of giant gypsum crystals". PNAS. 108: 15721-15726.
  3. "Naica: largest lead producing mine in Mexico"
  4. "Penoles suspends operations at Naica mine in northern Mexico". Reuters. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  5. National Geographic, 2008. Cavern of Crystal Giants
  6. 1 2 National Geographic, 2007. Giant Crystal Cave's Mystery Solved

Coordinates: 27°51′3″N105°29′47″W / 27.85083°N 105.49639°W / 27.85083; -105.49639