Boxwork and ferromanganese coatings in hypogenic caves: An example from Sima de la Higuera Cave (Murcia, SE Spain)

Fernando Gazquez Sanchez*, José María Calaforra, Fernando Rull

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the greyish-blue deposits that were recently discovered in the lower levels of the Sima de la Higuera Cave (Murcia, SE Spain) which occur as patinas over the walls and ceilings, as well as coating boxwork formations. Their mineralogy was determined using XRD and micro-Raman spectroscopy, while EDX microanalysis was used to determine their elemental composition. The mineralogical analyses revealed the presence of Mn oxides (todorokite and pyrolusite) and Fe with a low degree of crystallinity, whereas EDX microprobe showed elevated concentrations of Mn (38.2wt.%), Fe (15.2wt.%) and Pb (8.1wt.%). The ferromanganese oxyhydroxides occur as botryoidal aggregates overlying blades of calcite that have a visibly sugary texture. The speleogenetic model proposed describes (1) an initial phase of precipitation of hydrothermal calcite veins (of hypogenic origin) within the fissures of the host rock under phreatic conditions and (2) a subsequent vadose phase involving preferential corrosion of the carbonate host rock caused by lowering of the pH resulting from CO 2 diffusion in condensed water and oxidation of Fe and Mn under aerobic conditions, probably mediated by microorganisms. It is this later phase that gave rise to the boxwork. The boxwork of the Sima de la Higuera Cave is a singular example of a formation that is generated by dissolution-corrosion of the rock due to acidification caused by oxidation of iron and manganese.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-166
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012


  • Boxwork
  • Corrosion
  • Ferromanganese oxyhydroxides
  • Hypogenic caves
  • Sima de la Higuera Cave
  • Speleothems


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