Turkish Trona Deposits: Geological Setting, Genesis and Overview of the Deposits

  • Cahit HelvacıEmail author
Part of the Modern Approaches in Solid Earth Sciences book series (MASE, volume 16)


Trona deposits have limited distribution in the Earth’s crust, but extraordinary concentrations can be found in some places, commonly in combination with borate and other salt deposits. Four main continental trona provinces are recognized at a global scale. They are located in Anatolia (Turkey), Wyoming (USA), Whuceng (China) and Botswana (Southern Africa). The origin of trona deposits is related to alkaline volcanism, thermal spring activity, closed basins and arid climate. Quaternary sodium carbonate minerals (trona minerals) are present in salars (Andes), playa lakes (Lake Van, Turkey and Botswana) and salt pans (USA and Tibet).

Some conditions are essential for the formation of economically viable trona deposits: formation of shallow lake environments; source derived explosive andesitic to rhyolitic volcano-sedimentary sequences; concentration of sodium and bicarbonate in the lake, related to direct ash fall into the basin, or hydrothermal solutions along faults; thermal springs near areas of volcanic activity; arid to semi-arid climatic conditions; alkaline lake water.

Many minerals contain Na carbonate, but the three that are most important from a worldwide commercial standpoint are trona, nahcolite, and pirssonite, which are produced in a limited number of countries, along with subordinate bradleyite, shortite and thenardite. Pirssonite occurs in organic-rich muds (oil shales). Trona and nahcolite are precipitated subaqueously (in lake waters) and as an interstitial phase in playa muds. Evaporite minerals are closely related to pyrite in oil shales and are also associated with diagenetic silicates (Mg-rich smectites, zeolites, K-feldspar, searlesite, and idiomorphic quartz) and dolomite formed by reaction of alkaline brines with pyroclastic deposits.

Natural sodium carbonate minerals (soda minerals) are exploited commercially either from buried fossil trona deposits formed in Tertiary playa-lake sediments or by extraction from the brines of recent alkaline lakes and playas. Most of the world’s commercial trona deposits are mined by underground and solution mining methods. Many modern industries use industrial trona minerals.



The study has been encouraged by several research programs supported by Projects TBAG-685 and Project No: YDABGAG-565 of TÜBİTAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) and 03.KB. FEN.015 of the Dokuz Eylül University (İzmir, Turkey). Borehole logs were studied by the permission of Eti Maden Inc. and MTA (General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration). The author wishes to thank the management and technical staff for their assistance. Review comments by W.L. Griffin and Franco Pirajno considerably improved the manuscript. Mustafa Helvacı and Yasin Aydın are gratefully acknowledged for their typing and drafting assistance with the manuscript.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Engineering Geology DepartmentDokuz Eylul UniversityIzmirTurkey

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