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MINERALS BARYTE, WITHERITE Barite is a mineral consisting of barium sulfate. It most often occurs in hydrothermal veins and as veins in limestones. It is a relatively inert mineral with a high density. It is the primary ore of barium. The most common use of barite is as a weighting agent in drilling muds. Most barite produced is used as a weighting agent in drilling muds. These high density muds are circulated down the drill stem and return to the surface between the drill stem and the wall of the well. This action effectively flushes the cuttings produced by the drill and carries them to the surface. Barite is also used as a pigment in paints and as a weighted filler for paper and cloth. Barite's high density makes it opaque to x-rays. If it is given to a patient as a drink or enema it can be used to image the shape of internal organs by x-ray. WITHERITE Witherite is a rare mineral, especially since it easily alters to the more common mineral Barite. It alters when sulfuric acid from sulfide minerals dissolves the Witherite, and the sulfur combines with the barium element to form Barite. Witherite is also formed from Calcite that loses the calcium element which instead gets replaced by barium, thus forming Witherite in the process. Thin, long crystals and aggregates of Witherite should be handled carefully, as they are fragile and easily damaged.