Fact check: False claim electrically-charged rocks found in Congo
The claim: Electrically-charged rocks were discovered in Congo
A Jan. 22 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows a person holding a shiny rock that appears to produce electricity and illuminate a small light connected to it by wires.
"Electrically charged stones discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," reads text in the post.
The post contains multiple slides, including a screenshot of a tweet that refers to the electrically charged stone as "vibranium," the fictional material central to the plot of Marvel's Black Panther movies.
The post was liked more than 10,000 times in four days. Other versions of this claim, some including the same video or screenshots from it, have been shared on Instagram.
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Our rating: False
No electrically charged stones have been discovered in Africa, according to geologists. Scientists say that while some minerals can conduct electricity, rocks cannot generate or store electricity.
No such material discovered in Congo
Simon Jowitt, a geology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said no mineral matching the post's description had been discovered.
Both Jowitt and Anthony Love, a geologist at Appalachian State University, said the rocks shown in the post appear to be some type of iron sulfide and could be pyrite, also known as fool’s gold.
Like some other minerals, pyrite can conduct electricity, meaning that electricity can travel through it. In fact, pyrite was named for its ability to emit sparks when struck by metal.
However, it’s impossible for a mineral to store or create electricity itself, the geologists agreed.
"There are not minerals that produce electricity naturally without adding energy to the system," Love said in an email. "I would be wary of 'discoveries' announced on social media."
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Jowitt and Love guessed that some sort of hidden battery and wires are being used to make it appear as though the rock is generating electricity on its own.
“Minerals within those rocks, or if you have sufficient concentrations of them, can conduct electricity, but there’s no way they can really store it,” Jowitt said in an email. “It just passes through, going from one end to the other, like if you had an electrical current passing through a bit of metal.”
According to both geologists, the scientific community would have formally announced a discovery as significant as electricity-producing rocks, had it truly occurred.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is rich in minerals like lithium and cobalt, both key resources needed to manufacture batteries.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
The Associated Press and Lead Stories also debunked this claim.
Our fact-check sources:
Simon Jowitt, Jan. 26, Email exchange and phone interview with USA TODAY
Anthony Love, Jan. 26, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Jack Ridge, Jan. 26, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Indiana Geological Survey, accessed Jan. 26, Pyrite (Fool’s Gold): An Often Misunderstood Iron-Sulfide Mineral
Brittanica, Dec. 25, 2022, Pyrite
Associated Press, Jan. 25, Posts falsely claim electrically-charged rocks found in Congo
Lead Stories, Jan. 25, Fact Check: NO 'Electrically Charged' Rocks Discovered In Democratic Republic Of Congo
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim rocks with an electric charge found in Congo