A National Treasure Mineral Native to Taiwan
The Thermal Valley in Beitou (“Hokuto” in Japanese) is a renowned hot-spring tourist attraction in northern Taiwan. The water source of its hot spring comes from the Beitou Creek formed by the convergence of the streams on the south and east sides of the Datun Mountain, which is caused by the geothermal activities of the Datun Volcanic Group. In 1905 when Taiwan was under Japanese rule, Yohachiro Okamoto, an engineer at the Governor-General’s Office of Taiwan, discovered on the surface and in the crevices of the pebbles in the Beitou Creek some hot spring sediments in the form of crystalized minerals containing radium.
In 1912, Professor Kotora Jimbo from the Tokyo Imperial University of Japan displayed the specimen of this new mineral and named it “Hokutolite” in an international mineralogy conference held at St. Petersburg in Russia. A part of the Hokutolite gathered by Mr. Okamoto has been preserved at the National Taiwan Museum.
Mainly milky white or yellowish brown in color, Hokutolite finds its major chemical components in BaSO4 and PbSO4. The most distinctive feature of Hokutolite is its containing the rare element, radium. Among the several thousand kinds of known minerals around the world, Hokutolite is the only one named after a place in Taiwan. It is therefore no exaggeration at all to call Hokutolite a national treasure and a native mineral of Taiwan.
After nearly a century of research, Beitou and the Tamagawa Hot Spring of Akita County in Japan remain the world’s only two places hosting Hokutolite, a solid fact testifying to the rarity and preciousness of this special mineral.