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Galena (lead glance)
Galena close-up
Category Sulfide mineral
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification 02.CD.10
Dana classification
Crystal symmetry Isometric H–M symbol 4/m 3 2/m
Unit cell a = 5.936 Å; Z = 4
Color Lead gray and silvery
Crystal habit Cubes and octahedra, tabular and sometimes skeletal crystals
Crystal system Cubic Hexoctahedral cF8, space group Fm3m, No. 225
Twinning Contact, penetration and lamellar
Cleavage Cubic perfect on [001], parting on [111]
Fracture Subconchoidal
Tenacity Brittle
Mohs scale hardness 2.5–2.75
Luster Metallic
Streak Lead gray
Diaphaneity Opaque
Specific gravity 7.2–7.6
Optical properties Isotropic and opaque
Fusibility 2
References [1][2][3]
Galena's unit cell
Galena with baryte and pyrite
Galena with baryte and pyrite from Cerro de Pasco, Peru (5.8×4.8×4.4 cm)

Galena is the natural mineral form of lead(II) sulfide. It is the most important lead ore mineral.

Galena is one of the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide minerals. It crystallizes in the cubic crystal system often showing octahedral forms. It is often associated with the minerals sphalerite, calcite and fluorite.

Lead ore deposit[edit]

Galena with druzy calcite

Galena deposits often contain significant amounts of silver as included silver sulfide mineral phases or as limited solid solution within the galena structure. These argentiferous galenas have long been the most important ore of silver in mining. In addition zinc, cadmium, antimony, arsenic and bismuth also occur in variable amounts in lead ores. Selenium substitutes for sulfur in the structure constituting a solid solution series. The lead telluride mineral altaite has the same crystal structure as galena. Within the weathering or oxidation zone galena alters to anglesite (lead sulfate) or cerussite (lead carbonate). Galena exposed to acid mine drainage can be oxidized to anglesite by naturally occurring bacteria and archaea, in a process similar to bioleaching.[4]

Galena deposits are found worldwide in various environments.[3] Noted deposits include those at Freiberg, Saxony;[1] Cornwall, The Mendips, Somerset, Derbyshire, and Cumberland, England; the Madan, Smolyan Province, Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria; the Sullivan Mine of British Columbia; Broken Hill, Australia and the ancient mines of Sardinia. Galena also occurs at Mount Hermon in Northern Israel. In the United States, it occurs most notably in the Mississippi Valley type deposits of the Lead Belt in southeastern Missouri,[1] and in the Driftless Area of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The economic importance of galena to the early history of the Driftless Area was so great that one of the towns in the region was named Galena, Illinois.

Cubic galena with calcite from Jasper County, Missouri, USA (size: 5.1×3.2×2.8 cm)

Galena also was a major mineral of the zinc-lead mines of the tri-state district around Joplin in southwestern Missouri and the adjoining areas of Kansas and Oklahoma.[1] Galena is also an important ore mineral in the silver mining regions of Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Montana. Of the latter, the Coeur d'Alene district of northern Idaho was most prominent.[1]

Galena is the official state mineral of the U.S. states of Missouri and Wisconsin; the former mining town of Galena, Kansas takes its name from deposits of this mineral.

Derbyshire in the UK was one of the main areas where galena was mined.

The largest documented crystal of galena is composite cubo-octahedra from Great Laxey Mine, Isle of Man, U.K. measuring 25×25×25 cm.[5]

Galena uses[edit]

One of the oldest uses of galena was as kohl, which, in Ancient Egypt, was applied around the eyes to reduce the glare of the desert sun and to repel flies, which were a potential source of disease.[6]

Galena is the primary ore of lead which is mainly used in making lead-acid batteries; however, significant amounts are also used to make lead sheets and shot. Galena is often mined for its silver content (e.g. the Galena Mine in northern Idaho).

Galena is a semiconductor with a small bandgap of about 0.4 eV which found use in early wireless communication systems. For example, it was used as the crystal in crystal radio sets, in which it was used as a point-contact diode to detect the radio signals. The galena crystal was used with a safety pin or similar sharp wire, which was known as a "cat's whisker". Making such wireless sets was a popular home hobby in Britain and other European countries during the 1930s.

Scientists that were linked to this application are Karl Ferdinand Braun and Sir Jagdish Bose. In modern wireless communication systems, galena detectors have been replaced by more reliable semiconductor devices, though silicon point-contact microwave detectors still exist in the market.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Anthony, John W.; Bideaux, Richard A.; Bladh, Kenneth W. and Nichols, Monte C., ed. (1990). "Galena" (PDF). Handbook of Mineralogy. I (Elements, Sulfides, Sulfosalts). Chantilly, VA, US: Mineralogical Society of America. ISBN 0962209708. 
  2. ^ Galena. Webmineral
  3. ^ a b Galena.
  4. ^ Da Silva, Gabriel (2004). "Kinetics and mechanism of the bacterial and ferric sulphate oxidation of galena". Hydrometallurgy 75: 99. doi:10.1016/j.hydromet.2004.07.001. 
  5. ^ Rickwood P.C. (1981). "The largest crystals". American Mineralogist 66: 885–907. 
  6. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt. (New York: The Museum, 2005), p. 10, ISBN 1-58839-170-1.


External links[edit]