What is concealed in the underground of Jáchymov? A publication by Academia uncovers the unparalleled mineral treasures

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The mineral wealth of the Jáchymov deposit has been well-known for almost five centuries due to the German scholar Georgius Agricola. In spite of this, Jakub Plášil and his research team succeeded in discovering and describing more than a dozen of as-yet unknown, mostly uranium-based minerals in the recent years. Their findings are now available in the collective publication titled “Jáchymov – A Mineralogical Jewel of the Ore Mountains” co-authored by Jakub Plášil, Pavel Škácha, and Vladimír Horák.

“The authors have considered decades of geological, mineralogical and crystallographic research of the world-renowned location to be able to give general public a popular but scientifically accurate account of the mineral variety at the local, small-sized deposit, the extraction at which has influenced the course of history for several times,” said Michal Dušek, the Head of the Solid Particle Physics Division at the Institute of Physics of the CAS – which is also Jakub Plášil‘s a home institution, praising the team of authors.

The introduction to the publication by Academia concisely describes how the interest in the mineral resources of Jáchymov have changed over the centuries: the mining town has seen consecutive periods of silver, arsen, cobalt as well as uraninite mining – the sources used at first to make coloured glass, to extract radium for medicinal purposes at a later stage and to develop the atomic bomb after the WWII.

The extraction of mineral resources in the Ore Mountains has been associated with a number of technical innovations and discoveries from the very beginning. Until as late as the nineteen century, some of the local mines had used what was known as a “mihadlo”, a mine water pumping device, designed in 1551. In the early 20th century, Jáchymov held a global monopoly on producing radium, which was first extracted from uraninite by Marie Curie-Skłodowská and her husband. Also, the world‘s first state miner training school and the very first radon spa were established in Jáchymov.

The Jáchymov deposit is also the place of origin of the uranium ore used for the development of the first Soviet atomic bomb, tested in 1949 at the Semipalatinsk Test Site. The strategic role that the extraction of uranium played in the Soviet Era may be evidenced by a secret pact between the USSR and Czechoslovak governments from November 23rd, 1945, and by a decision of Antonín Zápotocký, the prime minister of the time, to submit the uranium extraction directly to state control in 1952. The mining of uranium claimed victims and caused hardship among political prisoners as a result of forced labour, for which they were interned in concentration camps located near the mines.

The next chapters of the publication address the outcome of the multiannual research by the team of authors, presenting detailed descriptions of primary and secondary minerals originating from the Jáchymov deposit. The complex overview of mineralogy and mineral wealth was complemented with photographs provided by Czech and foreign museums; historical map reproductions and photos of artworks created from local minerals.

Jakub Plášil has focused on mineralogical crystallography at the Institute of Physics of the CAS and has co-authored descriptions of more than eighty new mineral types originating from around the world. In the long term, he has concentrated on the mineralogy of uranium and the mineralogy and geochemistry of the Jáchymov ore district.

Jáchymov – mineralogická perla Krušnohoří
Nakladatelství Academia
ISBN 978-80-200-2931-7