Fluorite, also known as fluorspar, is the mineral form of calcium and fluorine (calcium fluoride or CaF2). It is an industrial mineral used in the manufacture of chemicals, ceramic, and metallurgical processes. Fluorites with exceptional color and diaphaneity are used to decorate ornaments.
Physical Properties Of Fluorite
Fluorite is easily identifiable by hardness, cleavage, and specific gravity. It is the only common mineral with four directions of perfectly shaped cleavage. The mineral has a hardness of four in the Mohs Scale and a specific gravity of about 3.2, which is considerably higher than other minerals. The color ranges from purple, yellow, green, to translucent, although color is not a reliable property of identifying minerals.
There are over 9,000 areas with fluorite deposits around the world. The mineral mainly exists as vein deposits in metallic ores. It is a primary mineral in igneous rock such as granite, and a common constituent of limestone and dolomite. The global reserve of the mineral is estimated at 230 million tones with the largest deposits in South Africa, Mexico, and China. China is the largest producer with an annual production of about 3 million metric tons. The largest fluorite deposits in North America are in Newfoundland, Canada.
Uses Of Fluorite
Fluorite is used for several purposes. The primary users are the chemical, metallurgical, and ceramic industries, but it is also an essential component in the lapidary and optical industry. There are three different grades of processed fluorite: ceramic, metallurgical and acid
Acid grade fluorspar is the most purified form of fluorite with over 97% CaF2. It is mostly used in the chemical industry to produce hydrofluoric acid that is used in the manufacture of fluorocarbon chemicals, refrigerants, and fluoride chemicals.
Ceramic grade fluorspar is 85 - 96% pure. It is used in the manufacture of ceramics, specialty glass, and enamelware. This mineral is also used as a component in the production of surface treatments and glazes. Teflon, which is used in the manufacture of non-stick cooking ware is made from fluorine.
Metallurgical grade fluorspar is 60 - 85% pure. It is mostly used in the production of metals such as steel and iron. The mineral is used to extract impurities such as phosphorus and sulfur from molten ore and increase the fluidity of the slag. An average of 40 pounds of fluorite is used to obtain a ton of metal, but metal manufacturers in the United States use purer fluorspar to achieve better quality steel.
Fluorite with distinct optical clarity is used to make lenses due to low refractive index and light dispersion. Pure fluoride is combined with other materials to create high-quality synthetic lenses used in telescopes, microscopes, and high-grade cameras.