Barite (January 18th, 2016)

Mineral Monday! This week, Barite from the Rock Candy mine near Grand Forks, southern British Columbia!

Barite is the main ore mineral for Barium, and is fairly common in a variety of mineral systems, especially in hydrothermal ones (i.e. hot springs). Most Barium is used for drilling lubricants in the Oil and Gas industry as it suppresses potential high-pressure blow outs. It is also used in a variety of manufacturing processes, such as in plastics as a whitener and medical applications like the ‘barium meal’ taken to highlight internal structure during a CAT scan.

This specimen is from the Rock Candy mine near Grand Forks. The site was discovered in 1916 by two prospectors who mistakenly identified the green Fluorite at the site as a copper-bearing mineral. Once the true nature of the mineralization was realized, Cominco acquired the property in 1918. The mine operated until 1929 and removed over 50,000 tons of ore, although the majority of the deposit remains underground and untouched.

The barite / fluorite veins on this site formed during phases of activity in the Palaeocene / Eocene periods (65-50 million years ago). Magma moved up through the crust forming massive structures called ‘plutons’, and a rock called ‘Andesite’ which is regularly found feeding volcanoes on the surface. The water in the ground was superheated and mixed with fluids rising from below the crust, which then circulated in large cracks and fissures in the ground. As the system aged and cooled, the minerals formed through a process called ‘fractionation’, which is where different minerals form in the fluids as it cools or other elements are used it.

The Rock Candy mine was later purchased by a private owner who has since opened the site to the public. Now you can visit the site and (for a fee) dig out your own specimens of the minerals from veins up to 10m wide!

Specimen Information

Store: Pacific Museum of the Earth, University of British Columbia
Collection: UBC Geological and Mineral Collection
Accession #: 6846
Primary Mineral: Barite
Secondary Mineral: Fluorite
Site Locality: Rock Candy Mine
Location: Grand Forks, British Columbia
Special Features: n/a