• Magnesium
  • Mines Producing Magnesium

Also Known As : Alkaline

The chemical element magnesium makes up 13 percent of the earth's mass and due to its high solubility in water is the third most common element found dissolved in sea water. The free element, magnesium metal, is not found in a natural state on Earth because of it being so highly reactive. Although once it is made it becomes coated with a thin oxide that masks this reactivity to a fair degree. Free magnesium metal readily burns emitting a brilliant white light which is why it is used in the making of flares.

Magnesium metal is made by the electrolysis of magnesium salts that are found in brine. From a commercial standpoint, the main uses for such a metal being made is so it can be used as an alloying agent when producing magnesium/aluminium alloys which are known as magnalium. These alloys are sought after because of their lightness and relative strength because magnesium is far less dense than aluminium.

Magnesium is also the eleventh most common element, by mass, in the human body. All living cells require magnesium ions to be able to remain living and it plays an important role in manipulating biological polyphosphate compounds such as RNA (ribonucleic acid, which is important in the coding, decoding, expression and regulation of genes), DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid, that encodes genetic instructions of all living organisms and viruses) and ATP (adenosine-5triphosphate, used by cells as a coenzime). This all means the hundreds of enzymes use magnesium ions to allow them to function.

The Uses of Magnesium:

Laxatives contain magnesium compounds
Antacids (milk of magnesia)
Processed as caustic calcined magnesia for use as a food supplement
In the treatment of eclampsia (a life threatening complication in pregnancy)
In agriculture, as the magnesium metallic ion is a centrepiece of chlorophyll and therefore a common additive to fertilizers
A feedstock used as dead burned magnesia and refractory brick use in the lining of furnaces in the iron and steel industry as well as the lining of cement kilns
Use as a filler in paints, plastics and paper
Surface coatings, landscaping, ceramics
Magnesium metal is used in aluminium alloying, casting and wrought iron products,
manufacturing of machinery, tools and mag wheels for cars

Magnesite deposits in Australia are mined by open pit method where the strip ratio ( the amount of magnesite to waste rock) is usually quite high. At the Kunwarara deposit where the strip ratio is relative low owing to a thin overburden of only four metres means that only between five to 10 tonnes of ore has to be mined and beneficiated, to produce one tonne of high grade magnesite.

Once magnesium catches alight it is very hard to extinguish. It is difficult to ignite in bulk form but when powdered, or shaved into thin strips, it is highly flammable. It will keep burning in nitrogen where it forms magnesium nitride, in carbon dioxide where it forms carbon and magnesium oxide and even under water where it forms hydrogen and magnesium oxide. This is why it was used by the military during World War 2 in incendiary weapons. The only practical way of extinguishing magnesium once it begins to burn is to smother it with sand to remove it from the influences of the atmosphere.

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