HARRISBURG - Members of the House State Government Committee recently heard testimony about legislation that would designate and adopt celestite as Pennsylvania's official state mineral, said Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), sponsor of the proposal.

The idea was first brought to Pickett's attention through the Che-Hanna Rock and Mineral Club of Sayre whose members mentioned that Pennsylvania was one of a number of states without an official mineral. Celestite was first discovered in Blair County.

"My goal with this legislation is really quite simple: The designation of a state mineral, like a state tree, a state bird or a state flower, brings additional attention to an item that is unique to Pennsylvania," Pickett told the committee. "That additional attention most commonly comes from our state's school children who learn all about the many state symbols in their history or civics classes. I am hopeful that a designation of a state mineral will pique the interest of children who want to learn more about minerals, and more about our Commonwealth's unique natural resources and our state's history."

House Bill 1177 would select, designate and adopt celestite, more commonly known as celestine, as the official state mineral of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Twenty-two other states have state minerals - whether they be gold, silver or even talc - but Pennsylvania would be the only state to adopt celestite as our state mineral.

Celestite, a type of sedimentary rock that is not found commonly around the world, is a white, pale green to pale blue mineral and its names stems from the Latin word for "sky."

Among those offering testimony today was Royce Black of Cumberland County, a seventh-grade student with Commonwealth Connections Academy, and the school's CEO, Dr. Maurice E. Flurie III. Flurie noted the extensive scientific research, field study, written correspondence, outreach to legislators and written testimony that the student has put into the proposal.

"Royce's testimony to the committee, which featured a history of the mineral and why it is so unique in Pennsylvania, is a valuable part of the law-making process, and I am pleased that he was able to be engaged in the issue and see how bills like this are written and debated," Pickett said. "Royce stands as a great example to other youngsters, and his involvement with celestite and mineralogy is leading him to consider a future career as a geologist."

Despite the recent economic downturn, Pickett told the committee that job prospects for geoscientists - which include geologists and geophysicists - are excellent and are set to get even better. The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that in 2018 there will be some 323,000 positions for geoscientists in the United States, about 23 percent more than in 2008.

Today's hearing also included testimony from John Ambler and RJ Harris, two mineralogists and self-proclaimed "rockhounds," along with Peter J. Heaney, professor of geosciences at Penn State.

Ambler, who has been collecting minerals for nearly 50 years, has gathered celestite from several locations throughout Pennsylvania in various colors, although the mineral turns blue when exposed to light.

Harris, a well-known radio personality in central Pennsylvania, pointed to the importance of Pennsylvania minerals in helping the North win the Civil War, and the rich and mineral hobby positively contributing to both the education and tourism sectors. Several rock and mineral clubs donate time and talent to numerous schools and senior centers, he told the committee, and annual conventions bring rock and mineral groups to Pennsylvania.

Submitted by Rep. Tina Pickett