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ATTAPULGITE

  • Attapulgite
  • Mines Producing Attapulgite

Attapulgite is a mineral clay with a compound structure known as being a hydrated magnesium aluminium silicate. This structure actually consists of tiny invisible channels that absorb and hold liquid. Attapulgite is particularly characterised having three layer strips joined at each corner. This gives it a cheqerboard type of structure that contains natural voids which absorb while giving it the ability to hold liquid.


Attapulgite is Highly Absorbant and Able to Withstand High Temperatures
Another important feature of attapulgite is that it is a crystallloid hydrous aluminium-magnesium silicate, this means it has a particular laminated chain structure with the crystals presenting in the shape of needles, fibre clusters or fibres standing alone. It is able to withstand high temperatures and is resistant to both alkali and salt. Along with its famous absorption qualities, it is also able to de-colourise liquids and contains adhesive characteristics.


Attapulgite has the Appearance of Soil

Attapulgite has the appearance of soil and is sometimes found within sedimentary rocks. Clay attapulgite is fine and greasy smooth to touch, it is quite light and crispy with a surface that is shell like when fractured into irregular shapes. Its major attribute being its propensity to absorb liquid. When attapulgite is wet it shows its adhesive and plastic qualities. When dry it doesn't shrink and doesn't crack. When soaked in water it collapses and the suspended liquid doesn't soliquid (disperse) or precipitate when coming into contact with electrolytes.


Attapulgite has a Wide Variety of Uses
Attapulgite high viscosity clay can be used to benefit in many materials such as:
Environment protection
Tape joint compounds
Printing ink
Paintings and coatings
Fertiliser carrier granules in the agriculture industry
Sealants
Molecular sieve
Animal feed additive


It is also used to improve the quality of many products, it resists settling, increases a products useful life, it resists mildew and is a thickener enhancer. Because of its highly absorptive qualities attapulgite is used in medicine to relieve the symptoms of diarrhoea and was widely used by the South American Maya people for this reason as well as in the making of pottery.


Attapulgite is Usually Extracted Means of Surface Mining
Natural resource mining companies commonly extract attapulgite by means of surface mining methods. One of Australia's largest attapulgite mining operations occurs at Lake Nerramyne, 150 kilometres north east of Geraldton, in Western Australia. The attapulgite clay at Lake Nerramyne covers an area of 2,700 hectares and has a resource of 23.4 million tonnes, 9.4 million tonnes being of a very high grade. Attapulgite mining at Lake Nerramyne is carried out on a seasonal basis with between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes being extracted each year.


Attapulgite used by Mayans in Paintings
Attapulgite is also known as palygorskite, both are magnesium aluminium phyllosilicate with the formula, Mg,Al. It is quite common in the south east of the United States and some of the smaller deposits in Mexico can be traced back to the pre-Colombian era when attapulgite Maya-Blue was often used in ancient paintings of the time.
 

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