Top 10 Toxic Rocks and Minerals On Earth

In mineralogy, a mineral, rocks, and crystal compounds have a well-defined, complex composition. Minerals, rocks, and crystals have a specific critical structure that defines their nature. The compounds with the chemical compositional features of radioactive and Uranium compounds are considered dangerous for human health.
Toxic rocks and minerals

Geologically all these compounds are found naturally but accessed through the mining process. This guide will explore 10 of these dangerous rocks and minerals and try to elaborate all about them.

The topics covered in this guide- 

  • 10 Toxic Rocks And Minerals.
  • Countries Wise Production Of Toxic Rocks And Minerals

10 Toxic Rocks And Minerals

Here is the list of naturally occurring dangerous rocks and minerals.

Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral. Inhalation of Asbestos fibers can result in various dangerous lung conditions, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, so it is now a serious health and safety hazard. Due to its health concerns, almost all 66 counties have banned these minerals. However, it is still produced in some countries, like Russia, China, Brazil, and Kazakhstan.  

Production 

Russia produces almost 53% of the total, whereas Kazakhstan and China have 16% and 15% of the world total, respectively. 

Coloradoite

Also known as mercury telluride, Coloradoite is associated with the deposit of metals like gold and the solve. Usually, gold occurs within the tellurides, and one such telluride is Coloradoite. It is seemingly a new mineral, sometimes confusing with Petzite. If carelessly handled, the rock can become deadly vapor and dust, which is dangerous for human health. 

Production- 

Kalgoorlie, Australia, and Canada are the largest producers of the mineral. 

The Chemical Formation Of Coloradoite-

HgTe

Quartz

Silica makes up the hard, crystalline mineral known as Quartz (silicon dioxide). After Feldspar, Quartz is the second most standard mineral in the planet’s continental crust. The two types of Quartz, known as standard and high-temperature Quartz, are both chiral.

Quartz is a type of silica. Thus it might be a problem in a variety of workplaces. Natural and synthetic stone materials can produce dangerous concentrations of very minute, crystalline silica dust particles into the air that employees breathe when cutting, grinding, chipping, sanding, drilling, and polishing.

A documented human carcinogen, respirable crystalline silica, can cause silicosis and pulmonary fibrosis, among other lung diseases making it one of the most dangerous crystals in the world. 

Production- 

Quartz is produced in different countries, and the list includes Norway at 9.7 percent, and; China at 8 percent, Japan at 7.4 percent, The United States at 6.3 percent, South Korea at 5.3 percent, Malaysia at 4.3%, France at 4.4 %, Germany at 2.8%, Russia at 2.3%, and Belgium at 1.6%.

The Chemical Formation Of Quartz-

SiO2

Chalcanthite

Chalcanthite is a richly colored blue-green water-soluble sulfate mineral CuSO4. The natural process transforms Chalcanthite into copper, which the body needs but is poisonous in excess, into a crystal that is incredibly bioavailable. In other words, the copper turns into a water-soluble substance that any plant or animal may ingest in large amounts, quickly weakening it and eventually killing it by halting biological functions. Amateur scientists should never taste-test Chalcanthite to determine its salt concentration because doing so could cause a deadly copper overdose. The blue mineral’s crystals alone have destroyed entire algae ponds and presented severe environmental risks. 

Production- 

It is majorly produced in the USA. The Planet Mine in La Paz County, Arizona, is the most prominent location for Chalcanthite specimens in the United States. Ajo and Tiger in Pinal County, Ajo, Bisbee in Cochise County, Globe in Gila County, Morenci in Greenlee County, and the Patagonia District in Santa Cruz County are more Arizona locations.

The Chemical Formation Of Chalcanthite-

CuSO4

Torbernite

The mineral contains uranium, which makes it somewhat radioactive, thus dangerous for human health. Although it comes under the category of dangerous rocks, it is still valued as a collector material. The rock is formed from the complex reaction of phosphorus, water, copper, and uranium. 

The rock is strictly dangerous when inhaled as it produces the lethal radon gas which can cause lung cancer. It is one of the principal uranium-bearing minerals making it one of the most dangerous rocks in the world. 

Production

The Torbernite is found in Cornwall, England, and the Katanga province of Congo. Kinshasa. 

The Chemical Formation Of The Torbernite-

Cu(UO2)2(PO4)2 · 12 H2O

Fluorspar

The crystal is found in the mineral form of calcium fluoride and belongs to the category of halide minerals. It is a hard material with transparent properties. It has many industrial uses, such as in the hydrofluoric acid manufacturing process. Despite its use, the mineral is one of the most Dangerous crystals to use. The mineralogist has to take extraordinary measures with these minerals as acute exposure to the mineral’s dust can cause respiratory tract irritation. Its chronic exposure can cause weight loss, anemia, and tooth defects. 

Production 

Due to the low health risk, the crystal is produced in many countries of the world like China ( the biggest producer of Fluorspar in the world), Mangalia, South Africa, Vietnam, and Canada. 

The Chemical Formation Of The Minerals- 

CaF2

Orpiment 

It is a transparent yellow mineral formed due to the hot springs’ deposit. The crystal belongs to the monoclinic system. It contains a significant amount of toxic arsenic, which is heavily toxic to human health. According to the International Agency For Research On Cancer, Arsenic present in Orpiment can cause bladder and lung cancer which can be fatal for human health. After exposure to sunlight, the Orpiment turns into a powder which becomes even more dangerous if inhaled. 

Production- 

It is found in Copalnic, Romania; Valais, Switz.; Andreas-Berg, Ger.; and Çölemerik, Turkey. 

The Chemical Formation Of The Orpiment- 

             As2S3

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Stibnite

Sometimes also called antimonite, it is a sulfide mineral. It is a crystal from the orthorhombic space group. Also, Stibnite is one of the important sources of millioid antimony. In spite of its uses, the crystal is dangerous for human health as the Stibnite contains 71.1% antimony, which can cause similar danger to Arsenic poisoning and can result in lungs and heart failure. So it becomes essential to take the necessary precautions during the mining of this mineral. The mineral is used for ornaments due to its crystal properties. 

Production- 

China, with (54%) production, was the main producer of Stibnite in the world, followed by Russia (18%), Tajikistan (17%), and Turkey (2%) 

The Chemical Formation Of The Stibnite- 

Sb2S3

Uraninite

Uraninite is yet another most dangerous rock in the world. It is a naturally occurring uranium and radioactive mineral. Its chemical composition changes from UO2 to U3O8.  

Its radioactive decay is so high that uranium causes the mineral to contain lead and a traceable amount of helium which makes it highly dangerous if not handled properly. It is also believed to contain thorium which is one of the rarest earth elements. 

Production- 

A total of 59,462 tonnes of uranium were produced in 2017 by the production of uranium in around 13 different countries (tU). International producers included Kazakhstan (39%), Canada (22%), Australia (10%), Namibia (7.1%), Niger (5.8%), Uzbekistan (4.0%), China (3.2%), United States (1.6%), Ukraine (0.9%), South Africa (0.5%), and Pakistan (0.1 percent ). Since 2009, Kazakhstan’s in-situ leach (ISL) activities have produced the majority of the world’s uranium.

Chemical Formation Of The Uraninite- 

 UO2

Cinnabar 

Cinnabar is produced during volcanic activity and alkaline hot springs. The mineral has a symmetry similar to Quartz. It has a mean refractive index near 3.2 and hardness between 2.0 and 2.5. The hexagonal crystalline lattice of the trigonal crystal system, which contains occasionally twin crystals, is the source of the substance’s color and qualities. The mineral is also one of the dangerous crystals of mercury which marks it as dangerous to health. 

Production

According to a report in 2019, China leads the production of Cinnabar bar with 3500 tons of production and Mexico followed with 240 tons, and Tajikistan and Peru produced 100 and 40 tons, respectively. 

Chemical Formation Of The Cinnabar

HgS 

Countries Wise Production Of Toxic Rocks And Minerals

China produced the most antimony, accounting for 84 percent of global production, far ahead of South Africa, Bolivia, and Tajikistan. With an estimated deposit of 2.1 million metric tons, the Xikuangshan Mine in the province of Hunan has the biggest deposits in China.

China produced 76.9% of the world’s antimony in 2016, according to the US Geological Survey, with Tajikistan and Russia coming in second and third, respectively.

Points scored

As mentioned in the chart, these are the top five countries producing these minerals. 

Conclusion

Not all the compounds in antimony appear to be toxic. The toxicity of the antimony compound can be determined on the basis of its radioactivity and the amount of Uranium in it. However, despite these setbacks, these minerals and rocks are produced on a large scale in the world because of their advantages. For example, Uranium is one of the most dangerous rocks out of all the antimony compounds. The continued exposure to this element can kill a human being in just a few months. Yet, it is still produced on a large scale as it is essential for nuclear power. The mineralogist uses different methods for the safe access of these minerals. The guide has covered the most dangerous crystals and rocks and their respective country-wise production to provide the reader with clear information.

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