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Home > Products > Minerals > Dolomite


What is Dolomite?

• Chemistry: CaMg(CO3)2, Calcium Magnesium Carbonate • Class: Carbonates • Group: Dolomite • Uses: in some cement, as a source of magnesium and as mineral specimens. • Specimens Dolomite, which is named for the French mineralogist Deodat de Dolomieu, is a common sedimentary rock-forming mineral that can be found in massive beds several hundred feet thick. They are found all over the world and are quite common in sedimentary rock sequences. These rocks are called appropriately enough dolomite or dolomitic limestone. Disputes have arisen as to how these dolomite beds formed and the debate has been called the "Dolomite Problem". Dolomite at present time does not form on the surface of the earth; yet massive layers of dolomite can be found in ancient rocks. That is quite a problem for sedimentologists who see sandstones, shales and lime stones formed today almost before their eyes. Why no dolomite? Well there are no good simple answers, but it appears that dolomite rock is one of the few sedimentary rocks that undergoes a significant mineralogical change after it is deposited. They are originally deposited as calcite/aragonite rich lime stones, but during a process call diagenesis the calcite and/or aragonite is altered to dolomite. The process is not metamorphism, but something just short of that. Magnesium rich ground waters that have a significant amount of salinity are probably crucial and warm, tropical near ocean environments are probably the best source of dolomite formation. Dolomite in addition to the sedimentary beds is also found in metamorphic marbles, hydrothermal veins and replacement deposits. Except in its pink, curved crystal habit dolomite is hard to distinguish from its second cousin, calcite. But calcite is far more common and effervesces easily when acid is applied to it. But this is not the case with dolomite which only weakly bubbles with acid and only when the acid is warm or the dolomite is powdered. Dolomite is also slightly harder, denser and never forms scalenohedrons (calcite's most typical habit). Dolomite differs from calcite, CaCO3, in the addition of magnesium ions to make the formula, CaMg(CO3)2. The magnesium ions are not the same size as calcium and the two ions seem incompatible in the same layer. In calcite the structure is composed of alternating layers of carbonate ions, CO3, and calcium ions. In dolomite, the magnesiums occupy one layer by themselves followed by a carbonate layer which is followed by an exclusively calcite layer and so forth. Why the alternating layers? It is probably the significant size difference between calcium and magnesium and it is more stable to group the differing sized ions into same sized layers. Other carbonate minerals that have this alternating layered structure belong to the Dolomite Group. Dolomite is the principle member of the Dolomite Group of minerals which includes ankerite, the only other somewhat common member. Dolomite forms rhombohedrons as its typical crystal habit. But for some reason, possibly twinning, some crystals curve into saddle-shaped crystals. These crystals represent a unique crystal habit that is well known as classical dolomite. Not all crystals of dolomite are curved and some impressive specimens show well formed, sharp rhombohedrons. The luster of dolomite is unique as well and is probably the best illustration of a pearly luster. The pearl-like effect is best seen on the curved crystals as a sheen of light can sweep across the curved surface. Dolomite can be several different colors, but colorless and white are very common. However it is dolomite's pink color that sets another unique characteristic for dolomite. Crystals of dolomite are well known for their typical beautiful pink color, pearly luster and unusual crystal habit and it is these clusters that make very attractive specimens. Dolomite is after calcite the second most important and abundant of the carbonate minerals. Chemically and structurally it may be regarded as calcite with half the calcium ions replaced by magnesium. Iron or manganese may substitute for magnesium in dolomite, forming isostructural series with ankerite and Kutnahorite. The crystal structure, hexagonal-rhombohedral, is similar to that of calcite, with alternate layers of calcium ions totally replaced by magnesium. This ordered arrangement of cations slightly impairs the overall symmetry of the structure but is essential to the stability of the mineral. Hardness is 4.5-5, specific gravity 2.85, luster vitreous to pearly, color ranges from colorless to white with green, brown, or pink tints, and cleavage is perfect in three directions. Like calcite, dolomite occurs in virtually all geologic settings: in igneous rocks as carbonatite, in metamorphic rocks as marble, and in hydrothermal deposits. Also like calcite, the most abundant occurrences are in sedimentary rocks; rock composed primarily of dolomite is sometimes referred to as dolostone. There is uncertainty as to the cause of its formation, as vast deposits are present in ancient rock, but it is very rarely found being produced in modern environments. This is referred to as the "Dolomite Problem". Dolomite accounts for about 10% of all sedimentary rock, including much that would have been produced near the surface of the Earth. However, experiments have only been able to synthesize dolomite under the high temperatures and pressures present in deeper layers.

The Present Scenario About Dolomite

Dolomite at present time, does not form on the surface of the earth; yet massive layers of dolomite can be found in ancient rocks. That is quite a problem for sedimentologists who see sandstones, shales and limestones formed today almost before their eyes. DOLOMITE is a double carbonate of calium and magnesium, CaCO3, MgCO3. The mineral was first identified by Count Dolomien in 1791 and named after its discoverer. It is of sedimentary origin and is supposed to have been formed due to chemical action of sea-water containing high percentage of magnesia, on limestone.

Theoretically, Dolomite Contains

CaCO3 54.35% MgCO3 45.65%

In Other Words, Dolomite Contains

CaO 30.4% MgO 21.7% CO2 47.9% In nature, considerable variations in the composition of dolomite relating to lime and magnesia percentages are found. When the percentage of CaCO3 increases by 10% or more over the theoretical composition, the mineral is termed 'calcitic dolomite', 'high-calcium dolomite' or 'lime-dolomite'. With the decrease in percentage of MgCO3, it is called 'dolomitic limestone'. With the variations of MgCO3 between 5 to 10%, it is called 'magnesian limestone', and upto 5% MgCO3 or less it is taken to be limestone for all purposes in trade and commercial parlance. Dolomite usually contains impurities, chiefly silica, alumina and iron oxide. For commercial purposes, the percentage of combined impurities should not go beyond 7% above which, it becomes unsuitable for industrial use. It is then used only for road ballasts, building stones, flooring chips etc. Hardness 3.5-4 Associated include calcite sulfide ore minerals fluorite barite quartz and occasionally with gold Minerals Chemical/Typical composition white Color often pink or pinkish and can be colorless, white, yellow, gray or even brown or black when iron is present in the crystal Characteristics Unlike calcite, effervesces weakly with warm acid or when first powdered with cold HCl Luster pearly to vitreous to dull Field Indicators typical pink color, crystal habit, hardness, slow reaction to acid, density and luster

Dolomite Packing

All grades of Gilsonite are available in various types of packaging: 1. 1 Ton Jumbo bags 2. 25kg package for powder

Dolomite Physical Characteristics

Hardness 3.5-4 Specific gravity 2.86 (average) Cleavage Color Often pink or pinkish and can be colorless, white, yellow, gray or even brown or black when iron present in the crystal. Density Diaphaniety Fracture Conchoidal Crystal Habits Include saddle shaped rhombohedral twins and simple rhombs some with slightly curved faces, also prismatic, massive, granular and rock forming. Never found in scalenohedrons. Luminescence Luster Pearly to vitreous to dull Streak White Synonym Transparency Crystals are transparent to translucent Crystal System Trigonal; bar 3 Cleavage Perfect in three directions forming rhombohedrons. Other Characteristics Unlike calcite, effervesces weakly with warm acid or when first powdered with cold HCl. Associated Minerals Include calcite, sulfide ore minerals, fluorite, barite, quartz and occasionally with gold Notable Occurrences Many localities throughout the world, but well known from sites in Midwestern quarries of the USA; Ontario, Canada; Switzerland; Pamplona, Spain and in Mexico Best Field Typical pink color, crystal habit, hardness, slow reaction to acid, density and luster

Dolomite Chemical Analysis

Chemical Analysis % SiO2 ------ Al2O3 0.04 Fe2O3 0.024 TiO2 N.D CaO 32.218 MgO 20.179 Na2O ------ K2O ------ Insoluble 0.094 Na2CO3 ------ Loss 47.33 Total 99.885

Dolomite Habits

Crystalline - Coarse - Occurs as well-formed coarse sized crystals. Massive - Uniformly indistinguishable crystals forming large masses., Blocky - Rhombohedral - Crystal shape resemb les rhomohedrons. Associated Minerals include albite, anatase, calcite, chlorite group, fluorapatite, fluorite, galena, gmelinite, marcasite, molybdenite, pyrite, quartz, rutile, siderite and sphalerite Crystal habits include saddle shaped rhombohedral twins and simple rhombs some with slightly curved faces, also prismatic, massive, granular and rock forming. Streak is white.

The Dolomite Group of Minerals

The Dolomite Group is composed of minerals with an unusual trigonal bar 3 symmetry. The general formula of this group is AB(CO3)2, where A can be either calcium, barium and/or strontium and the B can be either iron, magnesium, zinc and/or manganese. The structure of the Dolomite Group is taken from the Calcite Group structure. The Calcite Group structure is layered with alternating carbonate layers and metal ion layers. The structure of the Dolomite Group minerals is layered in such a way that the A metal ions occupy one layer which is followed by a carbonate layer which is followed by the B metal ion layer followed by another carbonate (CO3) layer, etc. The layering looks like this: |A|CO3|B|CO3|A|CO3|B|CO3|A|... This ordered layering of different or nonequivalent ions causes a loss of the two fold rotational axes and mirror planes that are present in the Calcite Group structure. Dolomite's symmetry class is bar 3 whereas the Calcite Group's symmetry class is bar 3 2/m. The loss of symmetry allows only simple crystal forms to be used by the Dolomite Group minerals, mostly rhombohedrons. Dolomite is a very common mineral and ankerite is much more scarce. The other members are considered rare to very rare. The rarity of the members of this group can be tied to the closeness in radius of the A and B ions. In dolomite the A and B ions are calcium and magnesium which have the largest ionic radius differential of the group (approximately 33%). If the A and B ions are close in radius, then they tend to not segregate as easily into the separate A and B layers, which is required to form this structure and therefore these minerals.

Minerals That Belong to the Dolomite Group

• Ankerite Ca(Fe, Mg, Mn)(CO3)2 • Benstonite (Ba, Sr)6(Ca, Mn)6Mg(CO3)13 • Dolomite CaMg(CO3)2 • Huntite CaMg3(CO3)4 • Kutnohorite Ca(Mn, Mg, Fe)(CO3)2 • Minrecordite CaZn(CO3)2 • Norsethite BaMg(CO3)2 The borate minerals nordenskoldine and tusionite are isostructural with the Dolomite Group minerals. Specimen: Cluster of curved, pink Dolomtite crystals ("Pearl Spar") Locality: Picher, Ottawa Co., Oklahoma Magnification: Specimen Grade Collection: Hershel Friedman Photograph: Hershel Friedman Specimen: Curved white Dolomite crystals with Chalcopyrite Locality: Picher, Ottawa Co., Oklahoma Magnification: +2 Specimen Grade: B Collection: Hershel Friedman Photograph: Hershel Friedman

Noteworthy Localities

There are many localities that produced fine Dolomite specimens. Most locations are in regions which contain an abundance of this mineral throughout the region. These regions are.

Occurrences of Dolomite

Geological Setting: An important sedimentary and metamorphic mineral, found as the principal mineral in dolostones and metadolostones, and as an important mineral in limestones and marbles where calcite is the principal mineral present. Also found as a hydrothermal vein mineral, forming crystals in cavities; and found in serpentinites and similar rocks. Dolomite is usually created through metasomatic transformation of calcite under appending of magnesium ions. Dolomite can also be created through hydrothermal transformation of magnesium rich carbonate and silicate rocks. Together with dolomite, magnesite, serpentine, brucite and magnetite are also created. Health Warning: There is no specific data on health dangers or toxicity for this mineral, however you should always treat mineral samples as potentially toxic/dangerous and use sensible precautions when handling them. Dolomite is a mineral (formula CaMg(CO3)2) consisting of a calcium magnesium carbonate found in crystals and in beds as dolostone. A pure form of dolostone would be rare, however; it usually intergrades with limestone and is referred to as dolomitic limestone, or in old U. S. geologic literature as magnesian limestone. Dolomite has physical properties similar to those of the mineral calcite, but is less soluble in hydrochloric acid. One interesting reported case was the formation of dolomite in the kidneys of a dalmatian dog. This was believed to be due to chemical processes triggered by bacteria. Dolomite is now thought to develop under these conditions only with the help of sulfate-reducing bacteria. The fact that conditions were better for the survival of these bacteria on the ancient Earth may explain the "Dolomite Problem". This joins other research in pointing out many new interesting links between large-scale geology and small-scale microbiology (see geomicrobiology). Dolomite is used as an ornamental stone and as a raw material for the manufacture of cement. It is also a source of magnesium oxide.

Dolomite Industrial Applications

Dolomite is chiefly used as refractory, ramming, and fettling material in steel melting shop, and as fluxing material in blast furnace operation in secondary steel and ferromanganese manufacture. To a lesser extent it is used in the glass industry especially in sheet-glass manufacture. It also finds use in the manufacture of mineral wool. In England, dolomite has become a useful source for the production of magnesite by reacting calcined dolomite with sea-water. The UK is meeting nearly 50% of her magnesite requirements by this method. Dolomite is also a good source of magnesium metal. The magnesium metal is extracted from dolomite by the well-known fero-silicon process. Dolomite decomposes completely above 900ºC. The product resulting from this relatively law-temperature calcination is highly porous and reactive and is known as 'calcinated dolomite'. Dolomite is sometimes used both in the raw and calcined form as refractory material for hearth maintenance and for banking door in open hearth furnaces. For most refractory uses, it is desirable to subject the dolomite to a heat treatment at a high temperature of the order of 1700ºC, to shrink the material thoroughly and render it less reactive. Dead burnt (D.B.) dolomite is sthe term generally used for the refractory made by firing dolomite, with or without additives, at high temperature to produce dense, well-shrunk particles. In basic converters the bricks employed are generally of D.B. dolomite and sometimes also of D.B. magnesite. Dolomite bricks are kept in the outer lining because it has lower thermal conductivity than magnesite.

Terms of Dolomite Use

Dolomite is quarried for building and ornamental stone, road stone, and the production of refractory brick. It is the principal ore of magnesium metal and the source of the magnesium used by the chemical industry. 1. Dolomite is used to make magnesia, which has important medicinal applications. Dolomite specimens from Iran are very popular among mineral collectors and dealers. 2. Dolomite Rock is used as an ornamental and structural stone, and for extracting certain metals from their ores. It is useful in the chemical industry in the preparation of magnesium salts. 3. Dolomite occurs in a different crystal class than the Calcite Group. This can be noted by the fact that Dolomite generally forms more elongated crystals than the Calcite Group. In addition, Dolomite never occurs in scalenohedrons, whereas minerals of the Calcite Group do.

Dolomite Industrial Use

A major source of magnesium, particularly for agricultural and pharmaceutical applications.

Dolomite General Use

Dolomite is used for manufacturing certain types of refractory bricks used in steel making. The dolomite is heated to a high temperature to drive off the carbonate as carbon dioxide and the remaining material, a mixture of calcium and magnesium oxides, is blended with carbon and other materials and pressed into blocks for the furnaces. The magnesium and calcium oxides have very high melting points and are an excellent, inexpensive refractory material. Dolomite is also used as a source of magnesium oxide for making magnesium metal and for chemical uses, such as the common laxative milk-of-magnesia. Dolomitic limestone's and dolomites are mined along with limestone and used for crushed stone and aggregates for manufacture of pavement, concrete for construction and as fill material. Dolomite is also used in some cement, as a source of magnesium. Of course Dolomite is also used as mineral specimens. Dolomite specimens from the Iran are very popular among mineral collectors and dealers. The clear transparent specimens from Iran are rare and unusual, and are in high demand by Collectors. Dolomite Rock is used as an ornamental and structural stone, and for extracting certain metals from their ores. It is useful in the chemical industry in the preparation of magnesium salts.