Miners prospecting for nickel and gold in Western Australia have stumbled on a rare find: a mineral that's unique among the world's 4,000 discovered mineral species, LiveScience reports. Called putnisite, it ranges from dark to light purple, has a pink streak, and is found on volcanic rock, where it looks like pink spots on a surface of white and green (it's also very brittle, the Daily Mail notes). What makes putnisite so unique? Its crystal structure and chemical composition differ from other known minerals, says Peter Elliott, co-author of the first study on putnisite.
Most minerals are related to a family or small group of minerals, or to a synthetic compound, "but putnisite is completely unique and unrelated to anything," Elliott tells Phys.org. "Nature seems to be far cleverer at dreaming up new chemicals than any researcher in a laboratory." Occurring as tiny crystals no bigger than 0.2 inches in diameter, putnisite is made of calcium, chromium, strontium, carbon, sulphur, oxygen, and hydrogen—a bizarre mix. Elliott can't say whether it will serve practical purposes, but apparently it's not alone: Experts believe that "many such minerals" lie undiscovered along volcanic rocks, Greenpacks reports. (Read more minerals stories.)