Because barite is heavy, soft, chemically inert and relatively inexpensive, its largest use is as a weighing agent in oil and gas drilling muds. Due to its light colour and brightness, it is used as a filler and extender, mainly in plastics but also in paints. It is also used as a filler in rubber and friction materials, and sound-deadening carpet backing. Since it absorbs gamma radiation, it is used as radiation shielding in concrete nuclear reactor buildings; pharmaceutical grade "high purity" barite is used as an X-ray contrast medium. Barite also serves as flux, oxidizer and decolourizer in glass making. Barium carbonate (BaCO3), an intermediate product, is used in the manufacture of TV and optical glass, ceramic glazes, porcelain enamels and ferrites.
The major grades of barite sold commercially are drilling mud, glass, paint and chemical (for the production of high purity barium sulphide [BaS] and barium carbonate). Drilling mud is the least expensive grade, and the chemical grade is the most expensive. Four barite mines are in operation in Canada, two in BC (mainly for drilling muds but also for paints), one in Ontario (for paints, plastics and lubricants) and one in Nova Scotia (for pharmaceuticals).
Author MICHEL BRAU BOUCHER
Links to Other Sites
Life of a Rock Star
This site tells the story of an extraordinary group of scientists who tramped, paddled and rolled across Canada in the nineteenth century to study the geology of Canada's varied terrain.
A History of Mining and Mineral Exploration in Canada
Click on the cover image to view an online copy of a comprehensive report that traces the emergence of Canada's mineral industry. From Natural Resources Canada.
The Beautiful Minerals Poster Series
A great site for photographs of Canadian mineral samples and online illustrated articles from the magazine "Elements." Every issue explores a theme of broad and current interest in the mineral sciences. From the Mineralogical Association of Canada.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...