Bauxite

Bauxite with US penny for comparison
QEMSCAN mineral maps of bauxite ore-forming pisoliths
Bauxite in Les Baux-de-Provence, France
Bauxite with core of unweathered rock
Bauxite output in 2005
One of the world's largest bauxite mines in Weipa, Australia

Bauxite, an aluminium ore, is the world's main source of aluminium. It consists mostly of the minerals gibbsite (Al(OH)3), boehmite (γ-AlO(OH)) and diaspore (α-AlO(OH)), mixed with the two iron oxides goethite and haematite, the clay mineral kaolinite and small amounts of anatase (TiO2) and ilmenite (FeTiO3 or FeO.TiO2). [1] [2] In 1821 the French geologist Pierre Berthier discovered bauxite near the village of Les Baux in Provence, southern France. [3] In 1861, French chemist Henri Sainte-Claire Deville named the mineral "bauxite". [4]

Formation

Lateritic bauxites (silicate bauxites) are distinguished from karst bauxite ores (carbonate bauxites). The carbonate bauxites occur predominantly in Europe, Guyana, and Jamaica above carbonate rocks ( limestone and dolomite), where they were formed by lateritic weathering and residual accumulation of intercalated clay layers – dispersed clays which were concentrated as the enclosing limestones gradually dissolved during chemical weathering.

The lateritic bauxites are found mostly in the countries of the tropics. They were formed by lateritization of various silicate rocks such as granite, gneiss, basalt, syenite, and shale. In comparison with the iron-rich laterites, the formation of bauxites depends even more on intense weathering conditions in a location with very good drainage. This enables the dissolution of the kaolinite and the precipitation of the gibbsite. Zones with highest aluminium content are frequently located below a ferruginous surface layer. The aluminium hydroxide in the lateritic bauxite deposits is almost exclusively gibbsite.

In the case of Jamaica, recent analysis of the soils showed elevated levels of cadmium, suggesting that the bauxite originates from recent Miocene ash deposits from episodes of significant volcanism in Central America.

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