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by George Zamora

SOCORRO, July 5, 2006 – Almost 200 geoscientists from around the world are expected to soon converge on the New Mexico Tech campus to attend a weeklong international scientific meeting that will focus on the occurrence, properties and uses of zeolites, a naturally occurring, highly porous minerals that are commonly used for various agricultural, medical, environmental, and industrial applications.

“Zeolite ’06,” the 7th International Conference on the Occurrence, Properties, and Utilization of Natural Zeolites, will be held July 16 – 21 at the state research university in Socorro.

This year, the annual conference, considered the premier venue for scientists working on natural zeolite research and applications, will include research paper and poster presentations, special symposia on zeolite science, technical sessions on zeolite properties and applications, and two field trips, including one to a zeolite-mining operation at the St. Cloud Mine near Winston, New Mexico.

Zeolites are a class of more than 200 natural and manmade minerals possessing a highly regular structure of pores and chambers that form “molecular sieves” which allow some molecules to pass through, and cause others to be either trapped or broken down.

Natural zeolites typically form where volcanic rocks and layers of ash react with alkaline groundwater.

Currently, the world’s annual production of natural zeolite is estimated to be about four million tons, with more than half of that being shipped to China to be used in the concrete industry.

In addition, zeolites are widely used in chemical separations, water purification, soil treatment, detergent manufacturing, and oxygen-generation systems.

With several open-pit mining operations in place throughout the state, such as the St. Cloud Mine, New Mexico is the major producer of natural zeolite in North America.

For more information about the upcoming international zeolite conference, visit the Zeolite ’06 website at www.ees.nmt.edu/Zeolite06.

-NMT-