Magnesite
Overview
 
Magnesite is magnesium carbonate
Magnesium carbonate
Magnesium carbonate, MgCO3, is a white solid that occurs in nature as a mineral. Several hydrated and basic forms of magnesium carbonate also exist as minerals...

, Mg
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

C
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

3. Iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 (as Fe
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

2+) substitutes for magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

 (Mg) with a complete solution series with siderite
Siderite
Siderite is a mineral composed of iron carbonate FeCO3. It takes its name from the Greek word σίδηρος sideros, “iron”. It is a valuable iron mineral, since it is 48% iron and contains no sulfur or phosphorus...

, FeCO3. Calcium
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

, manganese
Manganese
Manganese is a chemical element, designated by the symbol Mn. It has the atomic number 25. It is found as a free element in nature , and in many minerals...

, cobalt
Cobalt
Cobalt is a chemical element with symbol Co and atomic number 27. It is found naturally only in chemically combined form. The free element, produced by reductive smelting, is a hard, lustrous, silver-gray metal....

, and nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

 may also occur in small amounts. Dolomite
Dolomite
Dolomite is a carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate CaMg2. The term is also used to describe the sedimentary carbonate rock dolostone....

, (Mg,Ca
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

)CO3, is almost indistinguishable from magnesite.
Magnesite occurs as veins in and an alteration product of ultramafic rocks, serpentinite
Serpentinite
Serpentinite is a rock composed of one or more serpentine group minerals. Minerals in this group are formed by serpentinization, a hydration and metamorphic transformation of ultramafic rock from the Earth's mantle...

 and other magnesium rich rock types in both contact and regional metamorphic
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

 terrane
Terrane
A terrane in geology is short-hand term for a tectonostratigraphic terrane, which is a fragment of crustal material formed on, or broken off from, one tectonic plate and accreted or "sutured" to crust lying on another plate...

s.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Magnesite is magnesium carbonate
Magnesium carbonate
Magnesium carbonate, MgCO3, is a white solid that occurs in nature as a mineral. Several hydrated and basic forms of magnesium carbonate also exist as minerals...

, Mg
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

C
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

3. Iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 (as Fe
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

2+) substitutes for magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

 (Mg) with a complete solution series with siderite
Siderite
Siderite is a mineral composed of iron carbonate FeCO3. It takes its name from the Greek word σίδηρος sideros, “iron”. It is a valuable iron mineral, since it is 48% iron and contains no sulfur or phosphorus...

, FeCO3. Calcium
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

, manganese
Manganese
Manganese is a chemical element, designated by the symbol Mn. It has the atomic number 25. It is found as a free element in nature , and in many minerals...

, cobalt
Cobalt
Cobalt is a chemical element with symbol Co and atomic number 27. It is found naturally only in chemically combined form. The free element, produced by reductive smelting, is a hard, lustrous, silver-gray metal....

, and nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

 may also occur in small amounts. Dolomite
Dolomite
Dolomite is a carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate CaMg2. The term is also used to describe the sedimentary carbonate rock dolostone....

, (Mg,Ca
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

)CO3, is almost indistinguishable from magnesite.

Occurrence

Magnesite occurs as veins in and an alteration product of ultramafic rocks, serpentinite
Serpentinite
Serpentinite is a rock composed of one or more serpentine group minerals. Minerals in this group are formed by serpentinization, a hydration and metamorphic transformation of ultramafic rock from the Earth's mantle...

 and other magnesium rich rock types in both contact and regional metamorphic
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

 terrane
Terrane
A terrane in geology is short-hand term for a tectonostratigraphic terrane, which is a fragment of crustal material formed on, or broken off from, one tectonic plate and accreted or "sutured" to crust lying on another plate...

s. These magnesites often are cryptocrystalline and contain silica as opal
Opal
Opal is an amorphous form of silica related to quartz, a mineraloid form, not a mineral. 3% to 21% of the total weight is water, but the content is usually between 6% to 10%. It is deposited at a relatively low temperature and may occur in the fissures of almost any kind of rock, being most...

 or chert
Chert
Chert is a fine-grained silica-rich microcrystalline, cryptocrystalline or microfibrous sedimentary rock that may contain small fossils. It varies greatly in color , but most often manifests as gray, brown, grayish brown and light green to rusty red; its color is an expression of trace elements...

.

Magnesite is also present within the regolith
Regolith
Regolith is a layer of loose, heterogeneous material covering solid rock. It includes dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials and is present on Earth, the Moon, some asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons.-Etymology:...

 above ultramafic rocks as a secondary carbonate within soil and subsoil, where it is deposited as a consequence of dissolution of magnesium-bearing minerals by carbon dioxide within groundwaters.

Formation

Magnesite can be formed via talc carbonate
Talc carbonate
Talc carbonate is a geologic term for a suite of rock and mineral compositions found in metamorphic ultramafic rocks.The term refers to the two most common end-member minerals found within ultramafic rocks which have undergone talc-carbonation or carbonation reactions, talc and the carbonate...

 metasomatism
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...

 of peridotite
Peridotite
A peridotite is a dense, coarse-grained igneous rock, consisting mostly of the minerals olivine and pyroxene. Peridotite is ultramafic, as the rock contains less than 45% silica. It is high in magnesium, reflecting the high proportions of magnesium-rich olivine, with appreciable iron...

 and other ultrabasic rocks. Magnesite is formed via carbonation of olivine
Olivine
The mineral olivine is a magnesium iron silicate with the formula 2SiO4. It is a common mineral in the Earth's subsurface but weathers quickly on the surface....

 in the presence of water and carbon dioxide, and is favored at moderate temperatures and pressures typical of greenschist facies;

Magnesite can also be formed via the carbonation of magnesian serpentine (lizardite) via the following reaction
Metamorphic reaction
A metamorphic reaction is a chemical reaction that takes place during the geological process of metamorphism wherein one assemblage of minerals is transformed into a second assemblage which is stable under the new temperature/pressure conditions resulting in the final stable state of the observed...

:

Serpentine + carbon dioxide → Talc + magnesite + Water
2Mg3Si2O5(OH)4 + 3CO2 → Mg3Si4O10(OH)2 + 3MgCO3 + H2O


Forsterite
Forsterite
Forsterite is the magnesium rich end-member of the olivine solid solution series. Forsterite crystallizes in the orthorhombic system with cell parameters a 4.75 Å , b 10.20 Å and c 5.98 Å .Forsterite is associated with igneous and metamorphic rocks and has also been found in meteorites...

 magnesia-rich olivine
Olivine
The mineral olivine is a magnesium iron silicate with the formula 2SiO4. It is a common mineral in the Earth's subsurface but weathers quickly on the surface....

 compositions favor production of magnesite from peridotite. Fayalitic
Fayalite
Fayalite is the iron-rich end-member of the olivine solid-solution series. In common with all minerals in the olivine group, fayalite crystallizes in the orthorhombic system with cell parameters a 4.82 Å, b 10.48 Å and c Å 6.09.Iron rich olivine is a relatively common constituent of acidic and...

 (iron-rich) olivine favors production of magnetite-magnesite-silica compositions.

Magnesite can also be formed from metasomatism in skarn
Skarn
Skarn is an old Swedish mining term originally used to describe a type of silicate gangue, or waste rock, associated with iron-ore bearing sulfide deposits apparently replacing Archean age limestones in Sweden's Persberg mining district. In modern usage the term "skarn" has been expanded to refer...

 deposits, in dolomitic
Dolomite
Dolomite is a carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate CaMg2. The term is also used to describe the sedimentary carbonate rock dolostone....

 limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

s, associated with wollastonite
Wollastonite
Wollastonite is a calcium inosilicate mineral that may contain small amounts of iron, magnesium, and manganese substituting for calcium. It is usually white. It forms when impure limestone or dolostone is subjected to high temperature and pressure sometimes in the presence of silica-bearing fluids...

, periclase
Periclase
Periclase occurs naturally in contact metamorphic rocks and is a major component of most basic refractory bricks. It is a cubic form of magnesium oxide ....

, and talc
Talc
Talc is a mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate with the chemical formula H2Mg34 or Mg3Si4O102. In loose form, it is the widely-used substance known as talcum powder. It occurs as foliated to fibrous masses, its crystals being so rare as to be almost unknown...

.

Magnesite is also found in a number of Precambrian carbonate hosted sediments, and is thought to have formed as an evaporite.

Uses

Magnesite can be used as a slag
Slag
Slag is a partially vitreous by-product of smelting ore to separate the metal fraction from the unwanted fraction. It can usually be considered to be a mixture of metal oxides and silicon dioxide. However, slags can contain metal sulfides and metal atoms in the elemental form...

 former in steelmaking furnaces, in conjunction with lime
Lime (mineral)
Lime is a general term for calcium-containing inorganic materials, in which carbonates, oxides and hydroxides predominate. Strictly speaking, lime is calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide. It is also the name for a single mineral of the CaO composition, occurring very rarely...

, to protect the magnesium oxide
Magnesium oxide
Magnesium oxide , or magnesia, is a white hygroscopic solid mineral that occurs naturally as periclase and is a source of magnesium . It has an empirical formula of and consists of a lattice of Mg2+ ions and O2– ions held together by ionic bonds...

 lining. It can also be used as a catalyst and filler in the production of synthetic rubber and in the preparation of magnesium chemicals and fertilizers.

Similar to the production of lime, magnesite can be burned in the presence of charcoal to produce MgO, otherwise known as periclase
Periclase
Periclase occurs naturally in contact metamorphic rocks and is a major component of most basic refractory bricks. It is a cubic form of magnesium oxide ....

. Such periclase is an important product in refractory materials.

Magnesite can also be used as a binder in flooring material.

In fire assay, magnesite cupels can be used for cupellation
Cupellation
Cupellation is a metallurgical process in which ores or alloyed metals are treated under high temperatures and carefully controlled operations in order to separate noble metals, like gold and silver, from base metals like lead, copper, zinc, arsenic, antimony or bismuth, that might be present in...

 as the magnesite cupel will resist the high temperatures involved.

It is dyed to make beads, as is howlite
Howlite
Howlite, a calcium borosilicate hydroxide , is a borate mineral found in evaporite deposits. Howlite was discovered near Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1868 by Henry How , a Canadian chemist, geologist, and mineralogist. How was alerted to the unknown mineral by miners in a gypsum quarry, who found it...

.
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