Palygorskite from cave sediments: case study from Wadi Haqil, United Arab Emirates

  • Nadja Zupan Hajna
  • Roman Skála
  • Asma Al-Farraj
  • Martin Šťastný
  • Pavel Bosák
Original Paper


The x-ray powder diffraction identification of clay minerals both in bulk samples and in separated clay fraction confirmed the presence of palygorskite in samples of cave sediments from Wadi Haqil (the western slopes of Musandam Mountains; Ras Al-Khaimah Emirate, UAE). Samples contain quartz, gypsum, smectite, kaolinite, calcite, and palygorskite, some of them chlorite, illite, feldspars, and goethite. Calcite dominates in most samples; smectite prevails in clay fraction. After heating, the 001 reflection of chlorite shifts to higher diffraction angles and its intensity decreases; these features indicate that the chlorite represent a Fe-dominant species. Unit-cell dimensions of major phases as refined by the Rietveld method are in agreement with literature data. Chemical composition of palygorskite was derived from unit-cell dimensions as follows: MgO content is 11–14 wt% and Al2O3 10–13 wt%. Clay mineralogy is only hard to ascertain from the scanning electron microscope (SEM) images even after being combined with the energy-dispersive spectrometer data. The SEM was also used to characterize gypsum grains; they often display flow deformation features. Studied cave sediments represent palygorskite-bearing weathering products and desert soils re-deposited from the cave surroundings by slope processes and wind and/or surface runoff. The mixture with other clay minerals, quartz, feldspars, etc. supports this interpretation. Fine-grained quartz fraction is probably wind-blown. Gypsum and calcite are the precipitates (crusts and/or cements), although gypsum can also be re-deposited from omnipresent gypsum-cemented surface sediments.


Palygorskite Gypsum Cave sediments X-ray powder diffraction Scanning electron microscopy Ras Al-Khaimah Emirate 



The research was supported by his highness, Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Sheikh of the Ras Al-Khaimah Emirate; the research program Karst research P6-0119 financed by Slovenian Research Agency; Plan of the Institutional Financing of the Institute of Geology of the CAS, v. v. i. No. RVO67985831; and UNESCO IGCP project No. 598. Field assistance of Tadej Slabe, Franci Gabrovšek, Metka Petrič, Martin Knez and Janez Mulec (Karst Research Institute ZRC SAZU) is acknowledged. Mineralogical analyses were carried out in the Laboratory of Analytical Methods (GLI CAS, v. v. i.) with the help of Šárka Jonášová, Anna Kallistová, and Zuzana Korbelová.


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Copyright information

© Saudi Society for Geosciences 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nadja Zupan Hajna
    • 1
  • Roman Skála
    • 2
  • Asma Al-Farraj
    • 3
  • Martin Šťastný
    • 2
  • Pavel Bosák
    • 2
  1. 1.Karst Research Institute ZRC SAZUPostojnaSlovenia
  2. 2.Institute of Geology of the CASPraha 6Czech Republic
  3. 3.Emirates Geographical SocietyRas Al-KhaimahUnited Arab Emirates

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