Baryte, barite or barytes is a mineral consisting of barium sulfate (BaSO4). Baryte is generally white or colorless, and is the main source of the element barium. The baryte group consists of baryte, celestine (strontium sulfate), anglesite (lead sulfate), and anhydrite (calcium sulfate). Baryte and celestine form a solid solution (Ba,Sr)SO4.
Names and history
The name baryte is derived from the Ancient Greek: βαρύς, romanized: barús, ‘heavy’. The American spelling is barite. The International Mineralogical Association initially adopted “barite” as the official spelling, but recommended adopting the older “baryte” spelling later. This move was controversial and was notably ignored by American mineralogists.
Other names have been used for baryte, including barytine, barytite, barytes, heavy spar, tiff, and blanc fixe.
The radiating form, sometimes referred to as Bologna Stone, attained some notoriety among alchemists for the phosphorescent specimens found in the 17th century near Bologna by Vincenzo Casciarolo.
The American Petroleum Institute specification API 13/ISO 13500, which governs baryte for drilling purposes, does not refer to any specific mineral, but rather a material that meets that specification. In practice, however, this is usually the mineral baryte.
The term “primary barytes” refers to the first marketable product, which includes crude baryte (run of mine) and the products of simple beneficiation methods, such as washing, jigging, heavy media separation, tabling, flotation. Most crude baryte requires some upgrading to minimum purity or density. Baryte that is used as an aggregate in a “heavy” cement is crushed and screened to a uniform size. Most baryte is ground to a small, uniform size before it is used as a filler or extender, an addition to industrial products, in the production of barium chemicals or a weighting agent in petroleum well drilling mud.
Mineral associations and locations
Baryte occurs in many depositional environments, and is deposited through many processes including biogenic, hydrothermal, and evaporation, among others. Baryte commonly occurs in lead-zinc veins in limestones, in hot spring deposits, and with hematite ore. It is often associated with the minerals anglesite and celestine. It has also been identified in meteorites.
Baryte has been found at locations in Australia, Brazil, Nigeria, Canada, Chile, China, India, Pakistan, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Iran, Ireland (where it was mined on Benbulben), Liberia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Romania (Baia Sprie), Turkey, South Africa (Barberton Mountain Land), Thailand, United Kingdom (Cornwall, Cumbria, Dartmoor/Devon, Derbyshire, Durham, Perthshire, Argyllshire, and Surrey) and in the US from Cheshire, Connecticut, De Kalb, New York, and Fort Wallace, New Mexico. It is mined in Arkansas, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Nevada, and Missouri.
World baryte production for 2017 was 8.65 million tonnes. The major barytes producers (in thousand tonnes, data for 2017) are as follows: China (3,600), India (1,600), Morocco (1,000), Mexico (400), United States (330), Iran (280), Turkey (250), Russia (210), Kazakhstan (160), Thailand (130) and Laos (120).
The main users of barytes in 2017 were (in million tonnes) US (2.35), China (1.60), Middle East (1.55), the European Union and Norway (0.60), Russia and CIS (0.5), South America (0.35), Africa (0.25), and Canada (0.20). 70% of barytes was destined for oil and gas well drilling muds. 15% for barium chemicals, 14% for filler applications in automotive, construction, and paint industries, and 1% other applications.
It is also sometimes used as gemstone.