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Iron sand from Phoenix, Arizona, attracted to a magnet.

Ironsand also known as iron-sand and iron sand is a type of sand with heavy concentrations of iron. It is typically dark grey or blackish in colour.

It comprises mainly magnetite, Fe3O4, and also contains small amounts of titanium, silica, manganese, calcium and vanadium.[1]

Ironsand has a tendency to heat up in direct sunlight, causing temperatures high enough to cause minor burns. As such it forms a hazard in New Zealand at popular west-coast surf beaches like Piha.[2]


Although it is found internationally, this occurs extensively on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island.[3]

It is mined and used by New Zealand Steel to create steel, in a unique manufacturing process. A proposal by Iron Ore NZ Ltd. for further ironsand mining off the coast of Taranaki faced resistance from some Māori and others in 2005 in the wake of the New Zealand foreshore and seabed controversy.[4] Ironsand was also used extensively in Japan for iron production, especially for traditional Japanese swords.[5]

In Indonesia, iron sand is prevalent on the south coast of Java island.


According to the OED online entry for sand-iron, Jedidiah Morse (1761–1826), writing in The American universal geography (new edition, 1796 (2 vols)), stated that Jared Eliot (1685-1763) invented sand-iron, or the making of iron from black sand, in 1761.[6] However, Japanese craftsmen have been using sand-iron, known as "tamahagane", in sword-making for at least 2000 years. The crafting of sand-iron in "tatara" smelters, made of brick and clay, is still practiced by Japanese craftsmen today.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Templeton, Fleur (24 September 2011). "Chemical composition of ironsands - Iron and steel". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Summer Beach Vacation Piha Beach New Zealand - Photo & Travel Idea New Zealand". New Zealand Pictures. 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013. The beach is made up of black iron sand which can become overly hot during the summer and walking in the water or with shoes on will protect your feet from burning. 
  3. ^ Templeton, Fleur (15 June 2010). "1. Iron – an abundant resource - Iron and steel". Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "sand-iron". Oxford English Dictionary First Edition (Online version). 1909. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 

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