Mineralogy is important to find new ressources, and also for education, says Patrick Cordier, the past-president of the International Mineralogical Association.
2022 was the 200th anniversary of the laying of the basics of mineralogy by a French abbott in Paris, René Just Haüy, and this is considered as the foundation of modern mineralogy and crystallography. So the IMA wanted to celebrate the mineralogy with this year. So we are very proud that UNESCO accepted that this could be done under the umbrella of International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development. Minerals are everywhere, they are born in stars that explode and they make the dust and then it’s present in interstellar medium everywhere. When you form a solar system, this dust gathers, it forms pebbles and rocks and asteroids and then planets. And I think that’s one of the most exciting discoveries that we made recently in mineralogy is that minerals co-evolved with life, which means that the ten thousand minerals that we have on the Earth presently are a unique signature of this planet and the fact that it’s hosting this form of life.
How are your activities related to sustainable development?
We need resources. We need to find new resources, other natural deposits. And for that mineralogist can help very much. Also using human made products to build up a sustainable and circular economy. So for that, mineralogy is very central. Also, we can speak about climate change. We think that mineralogy is probably the best way to find new tools for carbon sequestration and storage to help reverse climate change. So we are really at the center of all those problems.
What do you expect from the International Year?
Science is probably the most fundamental attempt of humanity to try to understand the world. And this means that basic science carries humanistic values. Think about education, for instance. The model of universities is that where science is produced, where knowledge is elaborated, is a place where we transmit it to people directly. Education is central, and I think that education is probably the most important thing to cross cultural barriers or political barriers or religions or whatever. Collecting minerals is probably the first way to have a contact with science. Which means that mineralogy is a place where research scientist and young people can meet together, exchange and maybe work to protect the planet.
Interview by Marine Meunier