Meteorite removal case ends up a ‘botched sting’

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Chinese customs officers said the man who took out two rocks from the back of his pickup truck had thought they were meteorites

Two pieces of rock described as meteorites, recovered in a forest in China, turned out to be a piece of olivine, a mineral common in the area.

The customs officers who seized the rock in January identified it from the Chinese characters that were on the glass.

The two pieces of olivine, which are not accepted by the UK meteorite archive, turned out to be “made of glass, stone, soil and porcelain”.

The man who took the rocks had no criminal record, and the department responsible for the case did not check whether any samples of his rock were consistent with meteorites.

Olivine, the gold-like mineral, has been used to colour porcelain, including cup holders, bracelets and spoon holders for centuries.

It is also thought to be the main colour of carbonate bottles of vinegar.

China is in the middle of a mining boom and the government is trying to coax back deposits of olivine, which had fallen into ancient lava craters.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, there were 28.7 million live olivine miners in China last year – a figure that had doubled in three years.

The only known element extracted from olivine is olivine, which is used to make colour pigment.

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