Mining Zebra Stone with Crystal World
Zebra stone is a reddish-brown and white-banded sedimentary material from the Kimberley district of Western Australia.
Zebra stonei s quartz and ‘sericite’ mica, and the minerals kaolinite, dickite and alunite.
Zebra stone is found near the Ord River in lenses and seams within the Johnny Cake Shale Member of the Ranford Formation, formed during the late Precambrian (around 670 million years ago). Some seams of zebra rock are continuous over many kilometres.
The colour banding of zebra rock was formed by precipitation of hematite bands during the alteration of the rock by fluids moving through the host material.
Zebra stone is used as a lapidary gem and ornamental mineral. To see some articles that we make click here.
Most of Crystal World’s mines are located in the most remote areas on earth.
You cannot drive to the Zebra Stone mine easily!
Tom Kapitany inspects a Zebra stone outcrop.
Zebra rock is a siltstone, rather than a mineral specimen, although the difference may be lost on many collectors. It is arguably the most commonly collected rock related material from Western Australia, and sold widely internationally. There are several retail outlets for the material also in Kununurra.
Zebra rock is a marketing name for a decorative stone showing brown banding, and similar patterns against a white background, found at several sites south of Kununurra, near Lake Argyle. Ribbon stone, okapi stone,
primordial stone, rainbow stone, and astronomite, are also marketing terms for siltstones found in the area, showing different patterns to zebra rock.
These will be described in ‘other siltstone deposits’ sub-locality.
The fine grained, clay rich siltstone is soft enough to allow precise cutting and carving with hand tools, finished with using ultra fine wet and dry emery paper, to produce a stone with a silky smooth and semi gloss finish. The stone is then sealed using talcum powder or warm vaseline, followed by several coats of polyurethane solvent to enhance the colour and gloss.
These siltstones are found in the Ranford Formation located to the south and south-east of Kununurra, composed of fine grained, thin bedded, micaceous, iron rich siltstone.
It was first discovered in 1924 by T. Blatchford, near the old Argyle Downs homestead. The damming of the Ord River, formed a very large water body called Lake Argyle, which drowned this deposit, and a number of others. There appears to be enough left above the water line to meet world demand for some time.
Zebra rock is found in the upper parts of the Ranford Formation from Snappy Gum Ridge in the south, extending in a north north-easterly direction for over 50 kilometres to the Northern Territory border. As of 2013, there are three openpit zebra rock mining operations in the area, mined during the dry season, and when demand dictates.
Zebra rock shows regularly spaced, ferruginous brown bands on a white to pale brown clay rich matrix. The width of the bands vary depending on the thickness of the beds they come from. Patterns also include rods and irregular blebs, extending through the rock in parallel rows, similar to the near vertical alignment of bands.
Zebra rock is composed largely of fine grained quartz and sericite, with minor alunite, kaolinite clay and its polymorph dickite. The colour banding is thought to have resulted from the rhythmic precipitation of well defined, hematite rich liesegang bands in selected parts of the siltstone, caused by the percolation of warm hydrothermal fluids or other chemical activity during a period of alteration of the rock. (Loughman F.and Roberts F.,1990, Composition and origin of the zebra rock from the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, Australia Journal of Earth Sciences, v37, p201-205). One of the miners state the patterns are caused by cyanobacterial mats infilling ripple marks in low energy shallow marine environments, based on his own observations.
Mining Zebra Stone is arduous, you must be well prepared for life in the bush.
Sometimes you find things you do not expect.
Polished Astronomite from the rough we found.
Heading for home to process the material.
An example of how the polished material looks.
Mining Zebra stone is just the start, there is much more to do to bring it to market.