Industrial Minerals Overview

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 12:14


Phosphorite is a non-detrital sedimentary rock that contains large quantities of phosphate-bearing minerals. The two main sources of phosphate are guano, or bird feces, and rocks containing concentrations of the calcium phosphate mineral, apatite. Phosphorite most commonly accumulates on the ocean floor. Phosphated rock is mined, beneficiated, and either solubilized to produce wet-process phosphoric acid or smelted to produce elemental phosphorus. It has several industrial applications but is most commonly used in the agricultural and animal husbandry sectors.


Celestite is a mineral variety of strontium sulfate and one of the main ores of strontium. It is formed in saline and sulfuric deposit, and in some metalliferous deposits but mainly in sedimentary formations, especially in calcareous. The mineral is used to prepare strontium nitrate for fireworks, tracing bullets, and for other industrial applications. Celestite belongs to the barite group due to its similar properties. Celestite is characterized for presenting fine and shining crystals. It can be colorless, white or smoothly blue or yellow.


Barite is a generally white, pink or colorless non-metallic mineral, and is the main source of barium. It is an inert, non-toxic material characterized by its heaviness. Barite is found in a variety of deposit types and forms in a number of different ways, as the result of biogenic, hydrothermal, and evaporation processes, among others. The mineral is mainly used in the oil and gas industry as a component of drilling fluids but it also has important applications in the paint industry as an acid resistant pigment.


Fluorite is formed as a combination of calcium and fluorine, and it can be yellow, blue, pink, or purple. Fluorite may occur as a vein deposit, especially together with metallic minerals, where it often forms part of the gangue. The main application of this mineral is in the production of fluorhydric acid, which is an indispensable material in the fabrication of synthetic cryolite and aluminum fluoride for the aluminum industry, as well as for many other applications in the chemical industry.


Sodium sulfate is mainly used in the production of detergents and in paper pulping. It is a colorless, crystalline substance that is soluble in water, though it is less soluble in the majority of organic dissolvents, excluding glycerin. Around two thirds of the world’s production comes from mirabilite, the natural mineral form of decahydrate, and the remainder from by-products of chemical processes such as hydrochloric acid production. With an annual production of 6 million tonnes, it is a major commodity as a chemical product.


Wollastonite is a mineral of natural origin with significant ecological value. It is used in different sectors, such as paints, ceramics, metallurgy, and construction. Wollastonite usually occurs as a common constituent of thermally metamorphosed impure limestone. The mineral has recently become important due to its ecological characteristics, since its use in ceramics enables the incorporation of calcium ion into the modeling clay without the need for carbonates. This process significantly reduces the carbon dioxide emissions that are usually generated by this industry.


Diatomite or diatomaceous earth is a siliceous sedimentary rock of biogenic origin, composed of the fossilized skeletons of diatom frustules, formed when the microscopic skeletons of aquatic and unicellular algae accumulate. Diatomite is used in many industries, such as paint, plastic, and precious minerals, among many others. It is also used in chemistry as a filtration aid, to filter very fine particles that would otherwise pass through or clog filter paper. It is also used to filter water, as well as in liquids such as beer and wine.


Graphite is one of the allotrope forms in which carbon can manifest itself, along with in diamond and fullerene form. At room temperature and under regular atmospheric pressure graphite is more stable than diamond. The mineral is black and has a metallic luster, and it is a good exfoliater. The properties of the mineral are used in many industries, ranging from metallurgy to the military. In recent years graphite has become a strategic element in the construction of nuclear weaponry, since it acts as a moderator of the activity of uranium neutrons.


Gypsum is the most common sulfate mineral and can be found as a massive material, including the alabaster variety; clear crystals as the selenite variety; and parallel fibrous as the satin spar variety. Gypsum is a commonly occurring mineral, with thick and extensive evaporite beds associated with sedimentary rocks. This mineral is most commonly used as finish for walls and ceilings, and is known in construction as drywall or plasterboard. It is also used in the fabrication of fertilizers and soil conditioners.


Feldspars is a rock-forming tectosilicate mineral that makes up as much as 60% of the earth’s crust. Feldspar is a common raw material that is used in glassmaking, ceramics, and to some extent as a filler and extender in paint, plastics, and rubber. In glassmaking, alumina from feldspar improves product hardness, durability, and resistance to chemical corrosion. In earth sciences and archaeology feldspars are used for K-Ar dating, argon-argon dating, thermoluminescence dating, and optical dating.


Kaolinite is a hydrated aluminum silicate that is formed by the decomposition of feldspars and other aluminum silicates. Its formation is the result of disintegration of feldspars and the subsequent action of water and carbon dioxide. Kaolinite clay occurs in abundance in soils that are formed from the chemical weathering of rocks in hot, moist climates - for example in tropical rainforest areas. Kaolinite is most commonly used in the production of paper, including achieving the gloss on some grades of paper.


Silica sand is the compound of silicon and oxygen. Its chemical composition is formed by one atom of silicon and two of oxygen. Its industrial uses derive from the physical and chemical properties it has, specifically its hardness, chemical resistance, high melting point, piezoelectricity, pyroelectricity, and transparency. This is a fundamental product in the fabrication of glass and china, and is used as a filter to purify and sanitize water for human consumption, and it is also very important in the composition of concretes and mortars