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  • Staurolite
  • Mines Producing Staurolite

Staurolite ( iron aluminium silicate hydroxide) is a hard mineral, quite brittle and characterised by its dull lustre. It is usually of a dark brown colour and sought after by gem stone fossickers because of its propensity to display cruciform patterns known as 'fairy crosses.' Its name is derived from the Greek word for cross, 'stauros.' Facts on the mineral staurolite include the following:

Staurolite is produced on a commercial scale as a by product from heavy mineral sands placer deposits. These are usually found in beach sand environments due to the concentration of specific gravity of mineral grains. It is often associated with the production of zircon and titanium. Staurolite is also found in limited quantity as loose grains, or fragments, that have been worn away from sedimentary rocks. Although the presence of staurolite can be widespread, it remains a rare mineral and only mined in few places around the world, namely the USA, Australia, Ukraine, India and Russia.

Staurolite, being a metamorphic mineral, is found useful by geologists in determining the degree of metamorphism that has taken place. Metamorphism being the change in rock structure as a result of undergoing exposure to intense pressure, heat and various chemicals over long periods of time. Its famous twinned crystals that form the shape of a cross is a classic penetration twin where it appears as if two crystals grew into and out of each other. In fact it forms two twin types. One at about 90 degrees and one at close to 60 degrees. The 90 degree twin is the most sought after although the 60 degree twin is more common.

The hardness of staurolite is what makes it commercially attractive. It has a resistance to weathering and chemical attacks, a high melting point, low thermal expansion and moderate specific gravity. For these reasons it is used in the following ways:

- As an abrasive in sandblasting operations and as foundry sand
- For the etching and cutting of monumental stone
- Its use in paint primers as a filler material known as staurolite flour
- In cement production as a source of alumina

When used for sandblasting it is applied to a metal surface with the use of compressed air through a nozzle. When applied in this way the grains of staurolite cut through and remove and residual coatings on the surface of the metal such as rust or paint. Once cleaned in this manner the surface is once again ready for painting or welding.

Staurolite can also be made cut through metal with it being applied by means of a water jet. The mineral is sprayed in a fine jet of water at a very high pressure. The edge of the cut is smooth and the cutting action carried out with the use of a robotic arm that makes it suitable for cutting out patterns or templates. This means it is the most suitable way of cutting intricate shapes be it on sheets of glass, stone, plastic and metal.

The only source of commercial staurolite in Australia is at the Cooljarloo mineral sands placer deposit near Perth in Western Australia that primarily mines titanium. Western Australian sourced staurolite is separated from the other heavy minerals in concentrate form in the Chandala dry mill. Staurolite is not looked on as a mineral having potential growth because of industry demand, as production world wide is considerably constrained because of its limited availability.

Australian Mines that produce Staurolite

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