Meteorite Found in Somalia Contains Minerals Never Discovered on Earth

A 70-gram of the El Ali meteorite, contains two minerals never before seen on Earth. (Photo credit: University of Alberta Meteorite Collection)

Researchers discovered two new minerals never before seen on Earth in a 15-tonne meteorite discovered in Somalia in 2020.

The two minerals have been named elaliite and elkinstantonite. The discovery may hold information about how asteroids form.

The minerals found came from a 70-gram slice taken from the 15 metric tons El Ali meteorite found in 2020 in Somalia’s Hiiraan region. Researchers say the rock may hold more minerals.

“Whenever you find a new mineral, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what’s been found before,” said Chris Herd, a professor in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and curator of the University of Alberta’s Meteorite Collection. “That’s what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.”

Researchers are still studying the minerals to see what they can tell us about the meteorite’s formation conditions.

“That’s my expertise, how you tease out the geologic processes and the geologic history of the asteroid this rock was once part of,” says Herd. “I never thought I’d be involved in describing brand new minerals just by virtue of working on a meteorite.”

The local herders near El Ali in central Somalia, where the meteorite was found, report that they have seen the rock for more than 5-7 generations and know the rock through folklore, songs and poems.

According to Herd, the future of El Ali meteorite is uncertain and limits the team’s ability to further investigate the rock because it has been taken to China in search of a potential buyer.