EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Things we just don't talk about:  ethics in mineral collection

Susan Eriksson
Susan Eriksson
  • Davis, California, United States of America (

Minerals occupy a unique position as specimens yielding scientific information, objects with aesthetic and monetary value, and substances necessary for modern society. Aside from minerals in industrial use, a broad range of people are interested in minerals such as geologists, gemologists and jewelers, and people involved in minerals as collectors’ items including miners, dealers, private and institutional collectors, curators -- even art collectors and anthropologists. Traditionally, we have taken the extractive nature of these minerals for granted with little discussion of where and how they are obtained.

Adherence to legalities, disclosure of information, and personal and institutions responsibility are among ethical considerations. Legal considerations include how a mineral specimen is obtained in its initial extraction, its movement through opaque supply chains, export and import requirements, and ownership transfer. Disclosure issues range from curators and institutions maintaining and relaying accurate information about a mineral’s authenticity, sourcing, and history. What ethical responsibilities do individuals and institutions possess to ensure acquisition policies that address these issues? And, finally, as mineral extraction becomes a more pressing issue in the world’s move from a fossil-fuel economy, where does ethics lie in educating the public in the role minerals play in the environment and society?

Some of these questions raise issues which, in their complexity, have no apparent or easy solution. This paper presents the results of a literature survey on ethics of mineral specimens and raises questions for geoscientists.

How to cite: Eriksson, S.: Things we just don't talk about:  ethics in mineral collection, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-10191,, 2023.