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Baryte (barite)
Baryte crystals from Cerro Huarihuyn, Mirafneelores, Huamalíes, Huánuco, Peru
(size 56 x 53 mm, 74 g)
Category Sulfate mineral, barite group
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification 07.AD.35
Dana classification
Crystal symmetry Orthorhombic (2/m 2/m 2/m) dipyramidal
Unit cell a = 8.884(2) Å, b = 5.457(3) Å, c = 7.157(2) Å; A = 4
Color Colorless, white, light shades of blue, yellow, grey, brown
Crystal habit Tabular parallel to base, fibrous, nodular to massive
Crystal system Orthorhombic
Cleavage Perfect cleavage parallel to base and prism faces: {001} Perfect, {210} Perfect, {010} Imperfect
Fracture Irregular/uneven
Tenacity Brittle
Mohs scale hardness 3-3.5
Luster Vitreous, pearly
Streak White
Diaphaneity transparent to opaque
Specific gravity 4.3–5
Density 4.48 g/cm3[1]
Optical properties biaxial positive
Refractive index nα = 1.634–1.637
nβ = 1.636–1.638
nγ = 1.646–1.648
Birefringence 0.012
Fusibility 4, yellowish green barium flame
Diagnostic features white color, high specific gravity, characteristic cleavage and crystals
Solubility low
References [2][3][4][5]

Baryte, or barite, (BaSO4) is a mineral consisting of barium sulfate.[2] The baryte group consists of baryte, celestine, anglesite and anhydrite. Baryte is generally white or colorless, and is the main source of barium. Baryte and celestine form a solid solution (Ba,Sr)SO4.[1]

Names and history[edit]

The unit cell of barite

The radiating form, sometimes referred to as Bologna Stone, attained some notoriety among alchemists for the phosphorescent specimens found in the 17th century near Bologna by Vincenzo Casciarolo.[6]

The American Petroleum Institute specification API 13/ISO 13500 which governs baryte for drilling purposes does not refer to any specific mineral, but rather a material that meets that specification. In practice this is usually the mineral baryte.

The term "primary baryte" refers to the first marketable product, which includes crude baryte (run of mine) and the products of simple beneficiation methods, such as washing, jigging, heavy media separation, tabling, flotation. Most crude baryte requires some upgrading to minimum purity or density. Baryte that is used as an aggregate in a "heavy" cement is crushed and screened to a uniform size. Most baryte is ground to a small, uniform size before it is used as a filler or extender, an addition to industrial products, or a weighting agent in petroleum well drilling mud.


The name baryte is derived from the Greek word βαρύς (heavy). The American spelling is barite.[2][7] The International Mineralogical Association adopted "barite" as the official spelling when it formed in 1959[citation needed], but recommended adopting the older "baryte" spelling in 1978,[8] notably ignored by the Mineralogical Society of America.

Other names have been used for baryte, including barytine,[8] barytite,[8] schwerspath,[8] barytes,[2] Heavy Spar,[2] tiff,[3] and blanc fixe.

Mineral associations and locations[edit]

Baryte with galena and hematite from Poland
Large barite crystals from Nevada, USA
Abandoned baryte mine shaft near Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland.

Baryte occurs in a large number of depositional environments, and is deposited through a large number of processes including biogenic, hydrothermal, and evaporation, among others.[1] Baryte commonly occurs in lead-zinc veins in limestones, in hot spring deposits, and with hematite ore. It is often associated with the minerals anglesite and celestine. It has also been identified in meteorites.[9]

Baryte has been found at locations in Brazil, Nigeria, Canada, Chile, China, India, Pakistan, Greece, Guatemala, Iran, Ireland (where it was mined on Benbulben[10]), Liberia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Romania (Baia Sprie), Turkey, South Africa (Barberton Mountain Land),[11] Thailand, UK (Cornwall, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Durham,[12] Perthshire, Argyllshire and Surrey[2]) and in the USA from Cheshire, Connecticut, De Kalb, New York and Fort Wallace, New Mexico. It is mined in Arkansas, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Nevada and Missouri.[2]

The major baryte producers (in thousand tonnes, data for 2010) are as follows: China (3,600), India (1,000), United States (670), Morocco (460), Iran (250), Turkey (150) and Kazakhstan (100).[13]


Some 77% worldwide is used as a weighting agent for drilling fluids in oil and gas exploration to suppress high formation pressures and prevent blowouts. As a well is drilled, the bit passes through various formations, each with different characteristics. The deeper the hole, the more barite is needed as a percentage of the total mud mix. An additional benefit of barite is that it is non-magnetic and thus does not interfere with magnetic measurements taken in the borehole, either during logging-while-drilling or in separate drill hole logging. Barite used for drilling petroleum wells can be black, blue, brown or gray depending on the ore body. The barite is finely ground so that at least 97% of the material, by weight, can pass through a 200-mesh (75-μm) screen, and no more than 30%, by weight, can be less than 6 μm diameter. The ground barite also must be dense enough so that its specific gravity is 4.2 or greater, soft enough to not damage the bearings of a tricone drill bit, chemically inert, and containing no more than 250 milligrams per kilogram of soluble alkaline salts.[7]

Other uses are in added-value applications which include filler in paint and plastics, sound reduction in engine compartments, coat of automobile finishes for smoothness and corrosion resistance, friction products for automobiles and trucks, radiation-shielding cement, glass ceramics and medical applications (for example, a barium meal before a contrast CAT scan). Baryte is supplied in a variety of forms and the price depends on the amount of processing; filler applications commanding higher prices following intense physical processing by grinding and micronising, and there are further premiums for whiteness and brightness and color.[7]

Historically baryte was used for the production of barium hydroxide for sugar refining, and as a white pigment for textiles, paper, and paint.[2]

Although baryte contains a "heavy" metal (barium), it is not considered to be a toxic chemical by most governments because of its extreme insolubility.

World Supply Shortages[edit]

With no new major barite discoveries, accelerated production of current supply and depleting reserves worldwide, industry experts predict that serious supply constraints will occur within the next five years. North America alone will consume approximately 65% of the world’s barite production to meet its demand. With expansion of oilfield drilling activity in the Middle East, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, China and Russia; the barite demand curve already far outstrips supply. Current barite sources are rapidly being exhausted.

The Battle Mountain region in Nevada is host to America’s largest barite reserves and produced 744,764 tons in 2012. <Source:> These resources have been mined for more than 60 years and are nearing the end of their producing mine life.

According to MI-Swaco, there are very limited reserves of 4.2sg barite remaining anywhere in the United States. This limitation recently forced the industry to adopt a lower 4.1sg API specification to extend America’s reserve life to 2017. There have also been no significant investments to locate additional producible barite reserves within the U.S.

The projected remaining life of MI’s Greystone barite mine (produced 302,987 tonnes in 2012) is only 5 years according to the Nevada State Government. Barite production is forecast to end at Baker Hughes’ Argenta mine (produces 138,432 tonnes/yr) is 2020.<(Source:,> The following quotes are from leading market analyses published in Industrial Mineral Magazine (IMM) the world is headed towards a major barite supply issue in the not too distant future.

• “Bob Boyle of Baroid summed up the problem with global barytes supply. He told IM: “Since about 1980 no new mines have been developed and no new exploration has occurred. There have been no new deposits in the last 25 years. It is only now that people are looking for new resources.”

China Supply

• Quote Industrial Minerals magazine 2011 “These include a depletion of barytes reserves in Guangxi; higher than average flooding; an increase in fuel costs; and a rise in Chinese domestic demand for barytes. More recently, participants cite the fact that this spring has been unseasonably wet, making it difficult to mine. In Xiangzhou county, which produces between 10-15% of the world supply of barytes (1.3million tonnes), recent policy decisions have been made to stop dependency on mining.” <>

• Quote Industrial Minerals magazine 2011 “[The Chinese government] forewarned the industry that it wanted to quit mining barytes as it was taking farmland and turning into something which couldn’t be reworked,” a market source explained. The decision could lead to a shortfall of 650,000 tonnes, the participant added.” Many of those in the global barytes trade have long looked at a small area in Guangxi province in China as the “Saudi Arabia” of world barytes. Seven factors have been building to influence world barytes supply since 2007 1) serious depletion of barytes reserves in Guangxi 2) higher than normal seasonal flooding, earthquakes, and the Olympics factor in 2008 3) steadily increasing fuel costs 4) grade shifting, virtually eliminating “land grade” barytes for import to USA non-offshore drilling 5) other rising costs of extraction 6) no supply help from India, Morocco, Vietnam or Turkey 7) domestic Chinese demand for barytes in industrial applications such as equipment, bridge ballast and pipeline ballast.

These factors, along with exchange rates have steadily driven prices higher, but still no compelling evidence of a shortage has happened. However, four significant new factors have emerged:

1) the greening of China and resulting public policy changes 2) a lack of planning and forecasting on the demand side during the down market low production levels 3) new business models on the supply side 4) Whatever happens, the second half of 2011 will be the beginning of a new realization that barytes are no longer the ultimate commodity in drilling, pigments, and fillers, but a valuable component of finite supply which needs to be developed and conserved. John Newcaster is supply chain vice president of Tesco Corp., Houston, USA

• Short supply in China puts pressure on barytes prices 21 July 2011, IMM Depletion of barytes reserves in Guangxi; higher than average flooding; an increase in fuel costs; and a rise in Chinese domestic demand for barytes have all contributed to lower supply.

• Supply Situation Report: Drilling barytes demands new mindset September 2012, IMM Global production of barytes is about 8m tpa, according to the Barytes Association. The majority, some 84%, is consumed as a weighting agent in the oil-drilling industry, and is the focus of this report. The primary challenges for the drilling-grade barytes supply sector right now are the maintenance of consistent, high- quality supply from China and India, and to complement this with successful development of new, or expansions to existing, raw-material sources and processing plants for barytes.

In addition, as an overall challenge, there must start to be a change in perception of barytes on the part of the end users, that is, from it being considered merely a cheap commodity to its recognition as a valuable resource. This was underlined by both John Newcaster, vice-president distribution & logistics, Baker Hughes, and John Allen, managing director of Anglo Pacific Minerals Ltd, presenting at IM’s Oilfield Minerals Outlook Roundtable in Houston, US, in June.

“There is a disconnect between the end users and what’s available in the world [of barytes resources],” Newcaster said.

The potential threat to security of future barytes supply is a lack of investment and risk-taking in developing new sources of supply.

“Without new investments in the barytes mining segment, there will be no new mines, resulting in continued price increases. As far as the production of barytes in India is concerned, the continuing unplanned mining by the state monopoly APDMCÊ is adversely affecting the availability of material,” K Rajamohan Reddy, managing director of independent producer IBC Ltd, told IM. While some consider the future for barytes as uncertain, there remain some fundamental positives: drilling requires drilling fluids; most drilling-fluid systems require a weighting agent; barytes is the overwhelming weighting material of choice; and there are very few economic substitutes (that is, mainly hematite and calcium carbonate, ilmenite occasionally).

“We are convinced that there are no immediate replacements for barytes in oil-well drilling. Because of this, CPC-Sojitz will invest several million dollars in a barytes beneficiation plant in Sonora, Mexico,” Drilling barytes consumption is expected to increase to 9.3m tonnes in 2016 from approximately 6.9m tonnes in 2010, according to one research estimate quoted by Sojitz. There is also a trend in the increase of drilling activity taking place outside the Gulf of Mexico, such as in Brazil, Canada, Africa and parts of the Middle East.

The Middle East market has more than doubled in the past two years to around 350,000 tpa barytes, with one industry source considering it to be nearer 500,000 tpa. But the challenges outlined earlier remain. Known global barytes reserves are depleting rapidly, and the value chain as it stands and is perceived by end users at present discourages the exploration and development deemed necessary by many in the market.

IMJuly2013 by Emma Hughes Based on the expanding amount of exploration taking place in conventional oil and gas markets, as well as the burgeoning shale energy industry, the demand for oilfield minerals is expected to rise. The increased call for minerals used during oilfield processes has caused price volatility over the past years - especially following the US shale gas boom, which took place from 2011 and is still having an impact on the market today. John Newcaster, vice president of loptics and distribution at oilfield service provider Baker Hughes explained that spikes in the price of barite, potash and silica sand (frac sand) over the last seven years have caused key buyers of raw materials - drilling fluid manufacturers such as Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Schlumberger and Weatherford - to take a hit of up to $160m in one year. Freight costs, lack of suitable raw material supply, and China's production domination have all been blamed for price spikes seen in oilfield minerals, particularly barite and potash.

"This was a wakeup call for us to strategically source minerals. We have to take risks without the aid of a crystal ball/' Newcaster said. Mineral price volatility will never go away. We just don't know where the next one will come from" he added.

The supply and demand situation has also increased the call for drilling minerals such as Bentonite and Barite, a topic that was discussed in some detail in presentations by Halliburton Energy Services, Anaconda Barite and Ashapura Minechem.

While the call for these minerals is expected to ebb and flow in line with the progression of the oilfield industry, speakers agreed that it remains impossible to anticipate just how high demand will rise. Newcaster explained that volatility in the oilfield market will remain, and the only way to overcome the gap that may open up in the supply and demand chain is to keep a close eye on industry developments.

UK Geological Survey: Top ten highest risk elements for supply risk

Barium has been ranked in the UK Geological Survey top ten highest risk elements for supply risk. “The risk list highlights a group of elements for which global production is concentrated in very few countries. The restricted reserve distribution and the relatively low political stability ratings for some major producing countries combine to significantly increase risk to supply. THIS IS COMPOUNDED BY LOW RATES OF RECYCLING AND LIMITED SUBSTITUTES FOR MANY OF THESE ELEMENTS.”



Baryte with Cerussite from Morocco

In the deep ocean, away from continental sources of sediment, pelagic baryte crystallizes out and forms a significant amount of the sediments. Since baryte has oxygen, systematics in the δ18O of these sediments have been used to help constrain paleotemperatures for oceanic crust. Similarly the variations in sulfur isotopes are also being exploited.[14]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Geological Survey document: "Barite". 

  1. ^ a b c Hanor, J. (2000). "Barite-celestine geochemistry and environments of formation". Reviews in Mineralogy (Washington, DC: Mineralogical Society of America) 40: 193–275. ISBN 0-939950-52-9. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Dana, James Dwight; Ford, William Ebenezer (1915). Dana's Manual of Mineralogy for the Student of Elementary Mineralogy, the Mining Engineer, the Geologist, the Prospector, the Collector, Etc. (13 ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp. 299–300. 
  3. ^ a b Barite at Mindat
  4. ^ Webmineral data for barite
  5. ^ Baryte, Handbook of Mineralogy
  6. ^ History of the Bologna stone
  7. ^ a b c M. Michael Miller Barite, 2009 Minerals Yearbook
  8. ^ a b c d "International Mineralogical Association: Commission on New Minerals and Mineral Names". Mineralogical Magazine 38 (293): 102–5. March 1971. doi:10.1180/minmag.1971.038.293.14. 
  9. ^ Rubin, Alan E. (March 1997). "Mineralogy of meteorite groups". Meteoritics & Planetary Science 32 (2): 231–247. Bibcode:1997M&PS...32..231R. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.1997.tb01262.x. 
  10. ^ Ben Bulben. Retrieved on 2011-05-05.
  11. ^ Duchač, K. C; Hanor, J. S. (September 1987). "Origin and timing of the metasomatic silicification of an early Archaean komatiite sequence, Barberton Mountain Land, South Africa". Precambrian Research 37 (2): 125–146. doi:10.1016/0301-9268(87)90075-1. ISSN 0301-9268. 
  12. ^ Muirshiel Mine
  13. ^ Barite, USGS 2010 Mineral Commodity Summaries
  14. ^ Kastner, Miriam (30 March 1999). "Oceanic minerals: Their origin, nature of their environment, and significance". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 96 (7): 3380–7. Bibcode:1999PNAS...96.3380K. doi:10.1073/pnas.96.7.3380. PMC 34278. PMID 10097047.