Elliott added, "Putnisite, a strontium calcium chromium sulfate carbonate, has both a unique chemical composition and a unique crystal structure." (The color of putnisite crystals ranges from pale to dark purple, with a pink streak, according to the researchers.)
Found on volcanic rock, the new mineral occurs as tiny crystals just 0.02 inches (0.5 millimeters) in diameter, and looks like spots of dark pink on dark-green-and-white rock; under a microscope, the mineral appears as cubelike crystals.
"When the rocks in the Lake Cowan area were deposited millions of years ago, they contained small concentrations of strontium calcium chromium and sulfur," Elliott said. "Over time, weathering released these elements and concentrated them, allowing putnisite to crystallize."
Though it is not uncommon to find a new mineral - 50 to 100 such specimens have been discovered in each of the past several years - they aren't usually discovered by miners, Elliott said.
"Often, they are found in museum mineral collections," he said. "Many new minerals are found by mineral collectors who will forward a specimen they have found to a mineralogist at a museum of university for identification."