Natural resources are the foundation for our lives and lifestyles.
What would our lives be like without mining? Imagine a world without transportation such as jet planes or railroads, without communications such as cell phones or radar, without decorative items such as art or jewelry, without buildings such as skyscrapers or parking garages, without defense systems items such as missiles or submarines, without medical care items such as X-rays or surgical tools. We wouldn’t have any of these things without mining and minerals.
Barium (Ba) is obtained chiefly from the mineral barite. Barium is a soft, silvery, reactive metal. Because barium is so dense it is commonly used in some alloys, for example in spark plugs and ball bearings. As of 2013, China, India and Morocco were the world’s largest producers of barium. In the U.S, barite is mined primarily in Nevada and Georgia.
Mineral Classification: sulfides
Crystal System: orthorhombic
Color: Colorless, white, light shades of blue, yellow, gray, brown
Luster: pearly, vitreous
Much care must be taken to remove the mined barite with as little waste contamination as possible to reduce processing costs. In some cases, it is very difficult to eliminate the waste because of the nature and type of deposit. In a residual deposit, a high percentage of the material is waste, and current mining equipment is not capable of separating the clay waste. Therefore, the ore-bearing waste is mined and hauled to the processing plant for separation. A bedded barite that has thinly bedded shale, chert, or argillite also is mined and hauled directly to the processing plant with very little waste separation.
If the bedded or vein barite zone is pure enough and of sufficient size, the ore zone may then be mined to produce barite that will meet specifications without further processing. In many cases, the waste on the hanging wall of the ore must be removed first. Removal allows the mining equipment to mine the ore cleaner and with less waste contamination. When the dip of the barite is nearly vertical, the barite sometimes can be mined leaving the waste on both sides of the ore.
Barite has the unique ability to strongly absorb X-rays and gamma rays. Consequently, it is used in medical science for special X-ray tests on the intestines and colon. It is also mixed with cement to make special containers used to store radioactive materials. A more recent application of barite is in the production of brake pads and clutches for cars and trucks.