Arsenopyrite is an iron arsenic sulfide
A sulfide is an anion of sulfur in its lowest oxidation state of 2-. Sulfide is also a slightly archaic term for thioethers, a common type of organosulfur compound that are well known for their bad odors.- Properties :...

 (FeAsS). It is a hard (Mohs
Mohs scale of mineral hardness
The Mohs scale of mineral hardness characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals through the ability of a harder material to scratch a softer material. It was created in 1812 by the German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs and is one of several definitions of hardness in...

 5.5-6) metallic, opaque, steel grey to silver white mineral with a relatively high specific gravity
Specific gravity
Specific gravity is the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance. Apparent specific gravity is the ratio of the weight of a volume of the substance to the weight of an equal volume of the reference substance. The reference substance is nearly always water for...

 of 6.1. When dissolved in nitric acid
Nitric acid
Nitric acid , also known as aqua fortis and spirit of nitre, is a highly corrosive and toxic strong acid.Colorless when pure, older samples tend to acquire a yellow cast due to the accumulation of oxides of nitrogen. If the solution contains more than 86% nitric acid, it is referred to as fuming...

, it releases elemental sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

. When arsenopyrite is heated, it becomes magnetic and gives off toxic fumes. With 46% arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

 content, arsenopyrite, along with orpiment
Orpiment, As2S3, is a common monoclinic arsenic sulfide mineral. It has a Mohs hardness of 1.5 to 2 and a specific gravity of 3.46. It melts at 300 °C to 325 °C...

, is a principal ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

 of arsenic. When deposits of arsenopyrite become exposed to the atmosphere, usually due to mining, the mineral will slowly oxidize, converting the arsenic into oxides that are more soluble in water, leading to acid mine drainage
Acid mine drainage
Acid mine drainage , or acid rock drainage , refers to the outflow of acidic water from metal mines or coal mines. However, other areas where the earth has been disturbed may also contribute acid rock drainage to the environment...


The crystal habit, hardness, density, and garlic odor when struck are diagnostic. Arsenopyrite in older literature may be referred to as mispickel, a name of German origin.

Arsenopyrite also can be associated with significant amounts of gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

. Consequently it serves as an indicator of gold bearing reefs. Many arsenopyrite gold ores are refractory
A refractory material is one that retains its strength at high temperatures. ASTM C71 defines refractories as "non-metallic materials having those chemical and physical properties that make them applicable for structures, or as components of systems, that are exposed to environments above...

, i.e. the gold is not easily liberated from the mineral matrix.

Arsenopyrite is found in high temperature hydrothermal veins, in pegmatite
A pegmatite is a very crystalline, intrusive igneous rock composed of interlocking crystals usually larger than 2.5 cm in size; such rocks are referred to as pegmatitic....

s, and in areas of contact metamorphism
Metamorphism is the solid-state recrystallization of pre-existing rocks due to changes in physical and chemical conditions, primarily heat, pressure, and the introduction of chemically active fluids. Mineralogical, chemical and crystallographic changes can occur during this process...

 or metasomatism
Metasomatism is the chemical alteration of a rock by hydrothermal and other fluids.Metasomatism can occur via the action of hydrothermal fluids from an igneous or metamorphic source. In the igneous environment, metasomatism creates skarns, greisen, and may affect hornfels in the contact...



Arsenopyrite crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system
Crystal system
In crystallography, the terms crystal system, crystal family, and lattice system each refer to one of several classes of space groups, lattices, point groups, or crystals...

 and often shows prismatic crystal or columnar forms with striation
Striations means a series of ridges, furrows or linear marks, and are used in several ways* Glacial striation* Striation , a striation as a result of a geological fault* In medicine, striated muscle...

s and twinning
Crystal twinning
Crystal twinning occurs when two separate crystals share some of the same crystal lattice points in a symmetrical manner. The result is an intergrowth of two separate crystals in a variety of specific configurations. A twin boundary or composition surface separates the two crystals....

 common. Arsenopyrite may be referred to in older references as orthorhombic, but it has been shown to be monoclinic. In terms of its atomic structure, each Fe center is linked to three As atoms and three S atoms. The material can be described as Fe3+ with the diatomic trianion AsS3-. The connectivity of the atoms is more similar to that in marcasite
The mineral marcasite, sometimes called white iron pyrite, is iron sulfide with orthorhombic crystal structure. It is physically and crystallographically distinct from pyrite, which is iron sulfide with cubic crystal structure. Both structures do have in common that they contain the disulfide...

 than pyrite
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have earned it the nickname fool's gold because of its resemblance to gold...

. The ion description is imperfect because the material is semiconducting and the Fe-As and Fe-S bonds are highly covalent.

Related minerals

Various transition
Transition metal
The term transition metal has two possible meanings:*The IUPAC definition states that a transition metal is "an element whose atom has an incomplete d sub-shell, or which can give rise to cations with an incomplete d sub-shell." Group 12 elements are not transition metals in this definition.*Some...

 group metals can substitute for iron in arsenopyrite. The arsenopyrite group includes the following rare minerals:
  • Clinosafflorite: (Co,Fe,Ni)AsS
  • Gudmundite: FeSbS
  • Glaucodot
    Glaucodot is a cobalt iron arsenic sulfide mineral with formula: AsS. The cobalt:iron ratio is typically 3:1 with minor nickel substituting. It forms a series with arsenopyrite . It is an opaque grey to tin-white typically found as massive forms without external crystal form. It crystallizes in the...

     or alloclasite
    Alloclasite is a sulfosalt mineral. It is a member of the arsenopyrite group. Alloclasite crystallizes in the monoclinic system and typically forms as columnar to radiating acicular prismatic clusters. It is an opaque steel-gray to silver-white, with a metallic lustre and a black streak...

    : (Fe,Co)AsS or (Co,Fe)AsS
  • Iridarsenite: (Ir,Ru)AsS
  • Osarsite or ruarsite: (Os,Ru)AsS or (Ru,Os)AsS
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