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Giant phlogopite crystal, Kovdor Phlogopite mine.

Photo : O.V.Chaplygin.

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Europe : Kola Peninsula : Kovdor : Phlogopite crystals up to 10 m size and Diopside, Apatite and Forsterite crystals up to 2 m

Coordinates : 67°34'N , 30°25'E : Zheleznyi (iron ore) mine and Slyuda (phlogopite) mine, Kovdor, Kola Peninsula, Murmanskaja Oblast, Karelia (?), Northern Region, Russia

The Kovdor ultramafic ring complex is the largest of its kind on the Kola Peninsula, measuring 10 x 8 km. It is composed of a very complex suite of exotic plutonic rock types such as Ijiolites, Melteigites, Turjaites and Pyroxenites. Ever heard of these rocks...? Well, dont worry, even many experienced geologists - at least from the western hemisphere - have never heard of those rocks before, including myself...In fact there goes the story, that there are several detailed geological maps covering the Kovdor complex, but not two of them are alike !

As all large magmatic intrusions in old cratons (= very old continental shields) the Kovdor complex is old, dating back to at least 380 and more likely to 600 million years. Most probably Kovdor was formed by cyclic volcanic intrusions of different magmas over a long period of time, resulting in the multitude of roughly ring shaped magmatic rocktypes observable today.

Leaving the extremely complex petrology beside, Kovdor hosts two large economic deposits : the Zelezhnyi magnetite deposit in the western part and the smaller phologopite deposit in the north. Both deposits were discovered in the 1930 and mining the magnetite body started in earnest in 1954 with proven reserves of 600 million tons of high grade magnetite ore. Iron ore production today reaches 4 Million tonnes per year with 1,75 million tonnes of apatite - fertilizer as byproduct.

The magnetite body is rich in rare minerals, often found in spectacular crystals and exceptional specimen such as kovdorskite, bobbierite, magnetite, forsterite, glagolevite and many others. Apparently there are also large crystals of perfect golden cubes of pyrite, which may reach up to 40 cm size (!), though the occurence of these are somewhat in dispute. And there are magnificient crystals of kovdorskite, a rare magnesium phosphate, for which the Zelezhnyi mine in Kovdor is the type- and only locality.

However, the largest (though not the nicest) crystals occur at the nearby phlogopite or Slyuda mine in the northern part of the Kovdor structure. Here, truly giant crystals of phlogopite up to 10 m or even 12 m size have been found along with smaller, but nonetheless enormous prisms of diopside, forsterite and fluorapatite up to 2 m size with a diameter of general 0,2 - 0,4 m.

Unfortunately photos of these crystals seem to be very rare and we could not locate any of them - except the small one on top of the page - on the internet. So, if you have a photo of the giant phlogopite, diopside, forsterite, apatite or even pyrite to share with us and our visitors here, please let me know. Thank you.


The Kovdor complex in a nutshell :

Mineralogy :

Phlogopite, Diopside, Forsterite, Apatite crystals to 2 m size as well as large magnetite and pyrite (?) crystals

Crystal Size :

The largest phlogopite crystals may reach 10 m and even more.

Geology & Origin :

Ultramafic intrusive ring complex with several "exotic" rocktypes and large carbonatite accumulation.

Current status :

Active mining in two separate open pits : the magnetite pit in the south and the smaller phlopite pit in the north

Remarks :

Despite its generally well known geology and its active mining, little research has been conducted on the occurence and formation of giant crystals.


Other notable & famous phlogopite localities

- Several phlogopite deposits with well developed crystals up to 0,5 cm are known in St. Lawrence County, New York, USA, namely at Clarke's Hill and at Governeur.

- Large phlogopite crystals up to 2 m have been mined in the 1920 at Ambatoaba near Fort Dauphin, Madagascar.

- Phlogopite occur in abundant crystals to 1 m size in metamorphic rocks at Sludyanka, Lake Baikal, Russia

- Probably the largest phlogopite crystals are known from the Greenville group in eastern Ontario, where truly giant crystals up to 10 x 4 m dimension and 330 tons weight were found at the now abandoned Lacey mine.


Other notable & famous fluorapatite localities

Note : Apatite is the name for a mineral group, the member of which closely resemble each other in morphology. Here we are talking about fluorapatite , the most common member of the apatite group, which is indeed a common mineral. Fluorapatite very often forms mostly hexagonal, but sometimes also quite complex, well developed crystals in many different geological environs.

- Famous localities for small sized fluorapatite crystals up to several cm, building beautiful specimens, include the tin mines of Ehrenfriedersdorf in Saxony, Germany and Panasqueira in Portugal.

- Gemmy yellow fluorapatite crystals up to 10 cm are known from the magnetite deposit of Cerro de Mercado, Durango, Mexcico.

- Giant blue prismatic fluorapatite crystals up to 1 m size occur at the Sludyanaka deposit near Lake Baikal, Russia, together with large phlogopite crystals (see above).

- Fluorapatite crystals upt to 300 kg have been reported from the Greenville Group in Ontario, Canada, namely at Turners Island, Lake Clear and Sebastopol, both Renfrew County.


A new morning rises in Kovdor...time to collect mineral samples...!

Photo : Johannes-Peter Frisch


The Zelezhnyi - magnetite open pit at Kovdor

Photo : Johannes-Peter Frisch


Kovdorskite - a mineral unique to the Kovdor deposit

Collection : Johannes-Peter Frisch, Photo : Sebastian Hess



Resources and relevant weblinks :

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

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

Owing to its mineralogical and economic importance as "the largest Kola mine" there is a vast amount of scientific literature both in russian and english language available about the Kovdor magmatic complex and its ore deposits. Here are just a few :

- A good introduction into the Kovdor geology & mineralogy was given recently by KOLESAR, P. & TVRDY, J (2006) in their book "Zarenschätze" (Bode Verlag, Haltern, 2006) : pp. 60 - 70.

- Glagolev A.A. 1965. Role of apatitization in formation of Iron and Phlogopite deposits of the Kovdor massif (Kola peninsula) // Geologiya rudnyh mestorozhdenii. 3. P. 43-53. (In Russ.)

- Ivanyuk, G.Yu., Yakovenchuk V.N. & Pakhomovsky, Ya. A, (2002) : Kovdor
Laplandia Minerals, Apatity, Russia, 2002 (English/Russian). 326 pages

- Krasnova N.I.. 1994. Geology and genesis of the Kovdor Phlogopite deposit // Geology and mineralogy basises of estimation of rock product deposits. Saint-Petersburg. P.13-22. (In Russ.)

- Kuharenko A.A. et al. 1965. Caledonian komplex of ultrabasic, alkaline rocks and carbonatites of Kola peninsula and North Karelia. M: Nedra. 770 p. (In Russ.)

-Ternovoi V.I., Afanas'ev B.V., Sulimov B.I. 1969. Geology and prospection of the Kovdor vermiculite-phlogopite deposit. L: Nedra. 288 p. (In Russ.)


Luckily, there are also some online publications, which deal with Kovdor, such as :

- Kovdor geology and mineralogy by Maurice de Graaf at

- Informative site about Kovdor geology by M.V.Seredkin at the IGEM Institute.

- Krasnova, N.I.(2001) : The Kovdor phlogopite deposit, in Canadian Mineralogist Vol. 39, pp. 33 - 44 here.




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