South Africa and Nigeria: Africa’s Baryte Mining Hotspots
Baryte is an unusually heavy non-metallic mineral typically found as clustered tabular crystals or white, bladed masses in veins, residual deposits, or stratiform beds. Baryte is composed of barium sulfate and was named by Dietrich Karsten in 1800 from the Greek word βάρυζ (heavy) because of its distinctly high specific gravity of 4.5. The high gravity and contrasting properties of the mineral make it particularly suitable to a wide range of manufacturing, medical, and industrial uses including:
- As an additive in drilling fluids
- As a white pigment in paints and cosmetic products
- As a filler for papers and polymers
- In medical X-rays as a high-contrast medium
Because it is often found in vein deposits, baryte has a complex geometry and may be extracted from the underground or the surface. Residual deposits are generally shallow enough for opencast mining using front-end loaders, excavators, or bulldozers. Baryte deposits located deeper below the surface are more challenging to process and require large-scale, open-pit mining techniques. After extraction, the mineral deposits are crushed and milled before gangue minerals, like quartz, are removed through wet gravity concentration methods, such as jigging and spirals. Jigging uses pulsating water to separate the baryte from the lower density minerals, resulting in the an appropriately sized product. In countries with low labor costs, hand sorting is used. To produce white baryte, chemicals are used to remove iron oxide stains.
Where Baryte Is Mined
Baryte is mainly mined in China, India, Morocco, Mexico, the United States, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Laos. It is usually exported in its crude form in bulk shipments to be milled and bagged closer to its destination market. Markets are typically located around the Middle East and in the Gulf of Mexico.
Top Countries for Baryte Production
The two leading producers of baryte are China and India where the largest reserves of the mineral are located. Although the US produces around 700,000 metric tons of baryte per annum, it is not nearly enough to supply the country’s domestic needs. Approximately another 2.3 metric tons of baryte is imported from countries like China and India.
Baryte in Africa
Most of the Baryte mining in Africa takes place in South Africa where there are baryte mining facilities in seven provinces: Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Northern Cape, North West Province, Mpumalanga, Free State, Limpopo, and Gauteng. Large baryte deposits have also been discovered in Nigeria in the states of Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Plateau, and Cross River.