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"Mud Tank" Zircon Field, Harts Range, Northwest Territory, Australia


The Harts Range is a low mountain chain approximately 70 km north-east of Alice Springs and extending west for over 100 km. The region is arid and supports little vegetation (See above, left) The mountains are composed of volcanic and strongly metamorphosed sedimentary rock that has produced significant amounts of gold. Pegmatites scattered throughout the region have been commercially mined for mica and beryl. The region has also produced small amounts of gem quality aquamarine, tourmaline, garnet, and iolite.

Approximately 150 km north-northeast of Alice Springs is the Mud Tank gemfield (Named for the local bore, wind pump, and water storage reservoir), famous for gem quality zircon. At this site zircon, massive chunks of yellow-green apatite, and magnetite have weathered from the bedrock and can be found by screening the thin layer of topsoil and washing the gravel (See one day's yield in left image). The zircon display a variety of colors; brown, pink, shades of purple, yellow, and colorless (See image at right). Approximately 20% of the zircon from this particular area is suitable for faceting. Because of the high dispersion of zircon, this material produces exceptionally brilliant stones.