Pyrite or iron pyrite is also known as fool’s gold. The nickname is due to its yellowish hue. It is found in coal beds and sometimes associated with small amounts of gold. It is also found as a replacement material in fossils. It is used in making marcasite jewelry. Its early use was as ignition material in wheel-locks on firearms. Its use as a source of iron has declined due to its sulfur content that contaminates the iron. Modern uses include as sources for sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and iron sulfide. It is also sourced for use in the cathode material of lithium batteries, mineral detectors for radio receivers, and as a semiconductor material. Gold can also be extracted from iron pyrite but yields very little amounts.
Iron Pyrite Exporting Countries
The export of unroasted iron pyrite (sulfur, pyrite, pyrite or sulfide of iron ore) is preferred for its use in the glass and casting industry. It is also used for stainless steel smelting and the chemical industry. Today, it is exported by many countries as iron pyrite and iron powder in different specifications. Combined, Italy and China contributed to almost half of the global unroasted iron pyrite exports in 2015. Number one iron pyrite exporter earner is Italy with $5,559,000 USD. China is second earning $5,110,000 USD in is pyrite exports. The Netherlands is third earning $3,056,000 USD in its pyrite exports. Peru is fourth earning $1,668,000 USD in its pyrite exports. Russia is fifth receiving $1,200,000 USD in its pyrite exports. The United States is sixth earning $1,109,000 USD in its pyrite exports. Austria is seventh obtaining $1,050,000 USD in its pyrite exports. Turkey is eighth earning $508,000 USD in its pyrite exports. Germany is ninth with an income of $459,000 USD through its pyrite exports. Pakistan is tenth earning $276,000 USD in its pyrite exports. Spain is eleventh earning $175,000 USD in its pyrite exports. North Korea is twelfth obtaining $152,000 USD in its pyrite exports. Canada is thirteenth earning $134,000 USD in its pyrite exports. Brazil is fourteenth earning $117,000 USD in its pyrite exports. Malaysia is fifteenth earning $109,000 USD in its pyrite exports.
Extraction and Processing
There are about six iron pyrite varieties namely: pyrite cube, pyrite sun, dollar, cathedral pyrite, rainbow pyrite, and pyritohedron. Iron pyrites are commonly found with these minerals: sphalerite, chalcopyrite, barite, hematite, hornblende, hornblende, albite, biotite, microcline, and quartz. Pyrite is found in igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. It is also abundant in geothermal mineral deposits and coal beds. Iron pyrite is mined in vein deposits and carbonate rock layers. It is also extracted from massive chalcopyrite and sphalerite deposits.
Iron pyrite is abundant on the borders of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. Commercial processing is done similar to mining iron ores. It is mostly mined today for its sulfur, copper and gold association. Mining is open pit which sometimes occur in marl. They occur as simple cube morphology, pyritohedral crystals, and as cuboctahedral crystals. Specimens that are meant for display are mined with tools that easily dislodges them from their matrix, often too easily that quite damages them. Pyrite clusters are preferred as they show the pyrites in its most attractive composition. Processing is done by wiping and brushing.