At the International Union of Speleology congress in 1997, the Cave Mineralogy Commission was formed. One of the acheivements of the Commission has been to set up a physical location (in Europe) for the storage of representative mineral and speleothem samples. Additionally, a library is being set up to include all the references and publications on cave minerals. However what does not appear to have been set up yet is of an informatic nature (catalogues of information and databases).
The following matters appear to be still outstanding in the informatics side of cave mineralogy:
It is proposed that a method of cataloging these things be set up.
The aim of the ASF workshop was to gauge feelings amongst the speleological community as to the potential benefits (or otherwise) of such a public database, the types of users, and some of the field definitions.
It was envisaged that the work would follow many of the ideas initiated by the IUS Informatics Commission. It would use the classification scheme for speleothems which Hill and Forti use as much as possible. Field definitions would follow IUS guidelines.
The idea was to help prevent duplication of work on scarce resources, as well as improve the sharing of information where possible.
On a conservation note, it is important to consider who would be reading the information, if it was available to the public. One has to balance out the need to preserve the caves and their contents, compared with the need to share information. For example, if a particular cave was the type location for a new speleothem or cave mineral, it may be decided to not make the cave ID public. Then again, if the cave was a well-known and protected tourist cave, it may be beneficial to publicise the information.
As part of my work on cave aragonites of NSW, I will need to prepare a samples database anyway. Initially, I envisaged something which would be paper based, then later web based. Partly because of the work involving the ASF Karst Index database (see http://www.caves.org.au/kid), and partly because of the availability of relatively low cost computer hardware and software, it will be easier to set up parts of the database on my PC first, then port it to the Web after the field definitions have settled down a bit (ie after consultation).
The results of this workshop were to be forwarded to members of the IUS Mineralogy and Informatics Commissions (mostly via email).