ALUNITE

  • Alunite
  • Mines Producing Alunite

Also Known As : Aluminilite

The mineral alunite, or alumstone, is rare in Australia, a country short on potash, therefore all of its current potash requirements are imported. Alunite is usually located in volcanic rocks that are rich in potassium having been formed with a sulphuric acid solution coming into contact with rock during oxidation and leaching of metal sulphide deposits. It is also located in what are known as fumaroles (deep openings in the ground usually in the vicinity of volcanoes).


The Formation of Alunite is Called Alunitisation
When alunite is formed as a result of sulphuric acid acting on potassium rich feldspar it is called 'alunitisation.' The sulphuric acids are accompanied by hydrothermal solutions that are usually rich in certain metals. These solutions cause alunite to become a rock forming mineral when large deposits of the mineral result. Many of these rock formations can easily be mistaken for calcite (limestone) or dolomite rocks. An acid test can determine the difference as alunite does not bubble as do other formations.


Alunite is primarily Mined for the Production of Potash and Alum
On first appearance alunite looks much like fine grained limestone, magnesite, dolomite or even anhydrite. The more compacted examples found in Hungary are that tough and hard they were used as millstones. It is often mined for the purposes of producing aluminium and potash. When sodium replaces potassium, particularly when the sodium content is high it is known as natroalunite. It is not soluble in weak acids or water but is readily soluble in sulphuric acid. Jarosite is a form of alanite where the aluminum is replaced by iron. This occurs on iron sulphate ores as a secondary mineral.


Australia has Historically Mined Alunite
There has been some historical production of potash in Australia, these have included the following:

  • A deposit of alunite at Buladelah ( Alum) Mountain in New South Wales was mined from 1890 to 1926. Mining at Buladelah Mountain was resumed between 1935 to 1952 and has not been mined since. Production of potash at this mine totalled 75,000 tonnes. The Australian Alum Company held the first mining lease at Alum Mountain. Local consumption proved to be too small to make the operation viable, it therefore exported its product the England. Alunite mined at Buladelah was sent downhill by means of a tram-line to bins on the banks of the Myall River. From there it was taken by steam punts to Port Stephens to be loaded onto ships for transportation by steam ships to Sydney.
  • Alunite was discovered at Carrickalinga Heads in South Australia in 1913 and mining commenced at the site in 1914. The mine was a mixture of open cut and underground mining and the alunite was sent to Normanville Jetty for processing. Work ceased with the outbreak of World War One in 1915 but resumed again a year later. It was finally closed permanently in 1919 because of increasing costs.
  • Potash was also produced from soluble salt glaserite in Western Australia at Lake Chandler from 1943 through to 1950 where 9,218 tonnes of glaserite was mined.
  • Texada Mines Pty Ltd, proposed to produce potash from langbeinite at Lake Mcleod in 1973 where it was stated a deposit capable of producing between 80,000 to 200,000 tonnes a year was available. However, there is no record as to whether this project ever got past the planning stage.

  • Australian Mines that produce Alunite

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