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View of Debar with new Knauf gypsum factory

Photo Source : agrondr on Panoramio / Google Earth

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Gypsum - Gips - Plâtre - Yeso

Macedonia : Gypsum crystals up to 7 m length in Debar gypsum mine

Coordinates : 41°31'N , 20°31'E : Debar, Western Macedonia

I visited this locality in 1985 with an mineralogical field trip organized by the Mineralogcal Institutes of Göttingen University. Yugoslavia was still a socialistic country - and an undivided state - at that time, so it was much easier to travel this region of the world as it is now.

Though I had been in many underground mines before and visited a lot of spectacular geological sites since then I never again experienced such a "fairy tale feeling" as in this particular mine. In front of the mine was a long row of mine wagons filled to the top with "Marienglas" = transparent gypsum crystal fragments, glistening in the sun. To my surprise many of them were quite huge, easily reaching a size of half a meter and more

Our group entered the mine trough a dark adit and after some hundred meter we came into a huge cave, which was lit by strong electric floodlights. And there it was ! The thought '...and he entered the cave of crystals !' suddenly flooded my mind and I was, totally enchanted by this unexspected view. All the ceilings, all the walls were entirely made up of glistening brilliant gypsum crystals, one larger than the other...

We students then learned, on a far more scientific level, that this was an eocene gypsum deposit, heavily recrystallized and that the average crystal size was about 3 m with the largest crystals being up to 7 m large !

My visit now is more than 20 years ago and the mine was sold inbetween to a major german gypsum company and is mothballed in the moment. But I will never forget this 'fairy tale crystal cave' in my life...

Update June 2007 :

It took some time, but courtesy of Mr. M. Holzapfel of Knauf / Iphofen we finally have some images here. Thank you very much ! And there is also a bit of more information from Mr. Holzapfel, who just came back from a recent visit to the mine. The mine is still out of production, basically due to qualify reasons and limited reserves. Though the gypsum crystals are extremely pure, they wont make a good plaster due to their very crystalline nature. However, the mine is still acessible. Further it seems, as if the giant gypsum crystals form a large vein structure within otherwise barren anhydrite.


The Debar mine in a nutshell :

Mineralogy :

Very pure, large gypsum crystals

Crystal Size :

5 m confirmed, possibly even more

Geology & Origin :

Recrystallization of primary gypsum bed during eocene times due to regional tectonic events. According to other sources a large gypsum filled vein structure within anhydrite.

Status :

dormant underground mine, partly flooded, but still acessible

Remarks :

Depending on safety, this mine would make a nice visitor mine !


Other notable & famous gypsum occurences :

Gypsum is a very common mineral and even large gypsum crystals are not uncommon. There are however some outstanding occurences, namely :

The freestanding and perfect gypsum crystals of the Naica mine, Mexico, which reach 12 m length or even more. Similiar crystals are rumoured to occur at other mexican localities such as the Caverna de Santo Domingo, Santa Eulalia district.

- The "Gran Geoda" of the Pilar de Jaravia mine, Spain with large, clear gypsum crystals.

- Enormous crystals of gypsum are reported both from the Braden and the El Teniente Mine, Chile...possibly even the largest in the world.

- Perfect crystals up to 1 m are known to occur in the Raura mine, Lima Department, Peru.


Solid "crystal ore" with gypsum crystals up to several meter lenght within the mine

Photo : Mr. M. Holzapfel


Supporting underground pillar, built out of gypsum crystals > 2 m size

Photo : Mr. M. Holzapfel



Resources and relevant weblinks :

For more information on the mineral gypsum please look at, Webmineral and the german Mineralienatlas.

No public literature or weblinks available at the moment for this locality

For more information about the Knauf group please click here




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