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MINERALS BENTONITE is an absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate, essentially impure clay consisting mostly of montmorillonite. Bentonite usually forms from weathering of volcanic ash, most often in the presence of water. However, the term bentonite, as well as a similar clay called tonstein, has been used to describe clay beds of uncertain origin. For industrial purposes, two main classes of bentonite exist: sodium and calcium bentonite.
MINERALS NATURAL STEATITE, TALC Talc is known for being the softest mineral on earth. It is number 1 on the Mohs hardness scale, and can be easily scratched by a fingernail. Talc is not commonly seen in collections, as it is usually uninteresting and fairly common, although a few deeply colored and crystallized examples are known and well sought after. Also very popular are the Talc pseudomorphs. Talc forms some very interesting pseudomorphs after many different minerals, and certain localities are known for the specific minerals replaced by Talc. Talc is a very important industrial mineral. Talc is crushed into powder to form talcum powder, which is the main ingredient in many cosmetics as well as some baby powders. Talcum powder was also used as a filler to prevent slipping in latex gloves, although its use is being replaced with corn starch which is safer for inhalation. Talc is highly resistance to heat and electricity, and is therefore used in electronics and as an insulator. It is also a filler material for paints, rubber and insecticides.
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.