Mining facts

Magnetite and Magnetite Mining in Canada

Magnetite (also magnet iron, magnet iron stone, iron oxide, or iron (II, III) oxide) is the most stable iron oxide with high resistance to acids and alkalis. It has a cubic crystal system and a chemical molecular formula Fe3O4. One of the iron ions is divalent. The other two are trivalent, so Magnetite is also referred to as iron (II, III) oxide. It has a ‘Mohs’ hardness of 5.5 to 6.5, a black color, a line color, and a matte metallic sheen.

Crystal structure of magnetite: oxygen (gray), divalent iron (green), trivalent iron (blue), iron ion in octahedron gap (light blue octahedron), iron ion in tetrahedron gap (gray tetrahedron) – Wikimedia commons

History of magnetite mining

Magnetite is one of the most powerful magnetic minerals. When the temperature falls below 578°C, the magnetization is mostly aligned in the earth’s magnetic field direction. A remnant magnetic polarization of the order of magnitude 500 nT results. In this way, magnetite crystals can preserve the direction of the earth’s magnetic field at the time of their formation.

The investigation of the direction of magnetization of lava rock (basalt) led geologists to observe that in the distant past, the magnetic polarity of the earth must have reversed from time to time. Due to its excellent magnetic properties, Magnetite is still used today in the construction of compasses. As a color pigment, it bears the name iron oxide black.

The name magnet emerged from the Latin name form magnetem (from nominative magnes – magnet). The medieval mineral name Magneteisenstein and the name Magnetit were introduced by Wilhelm Haidinger in 1845.

According to Greek legend, the shepherd Magnes is said to have been the first to find a natural stone with magnetic properties. The shepherd found the stone on Mount Ida when his shoe-heel stuck to the ground.

Magnetite is magnetic!

Another possible origin of the name refers to the Greek landscape Magnesia. Georgius Agricola (1494-1555) used the term “magnetic stone” in his well-known work De Re Metallica in 1550 as an ingredient for glass production.

The reference to the stone magnes, named after a shepherd of the same name, can be found in works by the Roman writer Pliny, the Elder. Pliny distinguished two types of magnes; a “male” and a “female,” of which only the male had the power to attract iron and thus corresponded to the actual Magnetite. “Female” magnesite was probably manganese ore, similar to the “male” in appearance.

Illustration of Magnes the shepherd

The mineral might have also been named after Magnesia, a landscape in Thessaly or the city of Magnesia. It is also possible that the name Magnetite comes from other Greek or Asia Minor places of the same name, in which iron ore chunks with magnetic properties were found over 2500 years ago.


Magnetite occurs in solid or granular form and also as crystals. The latter are often octahedral in shape, so each has eight triangular boundary surfaces. It is a ubiquitous mineral, but it is rarely the main component of an iron rock.


Magnetite is found in numerous igneous rocks such as basalt, diabase, and gabbro in metamorphic rocks. Its hardness means that Magnetite remains intact as sand in river sediments despite weathering processes.

Most of the Canadian Magnetite comes from the Labrador Trough region, on the border between Newfoundland and Quebec and Labrador. Vast deposits of Magnetite can be found in Nunavut, Faraday Township, Hastings County, Ontario, and Outaouais, Québec, Canada. Magnetite deposits are mined in British Columbia at Mount Polley.

Magnetite Uses

Dense Media Separation

Magnetite can be used in industry as a giant magnet. This has applications for sorting valuable materials from others in order to extract value. Those that panned for gold used pans, water, and agitation to remove dirt and debris from valuable nuggets of the valuable ore. Recyclers use magnetite in huge magets to sort valuable scrap metal from less valuable material. Magnetite mining helps the world extract value in an efficient way, whether from raw material or to repurpose discarded material in a green and environmentally friendly manner.

Dense Media Separation has its origins in cleaning coal. Finer coal material is separated from impurities making the energy derived from coal mining cleaner and more efficient.

Dense Media Separation is used in recycling industries to sort scrap metal. This is useful to give valuable material new life in everyday products from smartphones to electric vehicles. Magnetite makes recycling much more efficient, reducing the market price for recycled metals, allowing it to compete with newly mined metals in manufacturing.

Scrap metal recycling

Potash mining is a significant industry in Canada, particularly in the province of Saskatchewan. Potash is primarily used in fertilizer to more cheaply and efficiently feed a hungry world. Magetite, through the process of dense media separation, is used to purify extracted potash. Potash is a mixture of potassium chloride (KCl) and sodium chloride (NaCl). Magnetite is used in dense media separation in the potash extraction to remove NaCl from solution, leaving the valuable KCl behind.

Potash mining

Electrical industry

Along with hematite, Magnetite is one of the essential iron ore. At 72 %, iron has the highest content of this metal. The term iron oxide black means finely ground Magnetite.

Magnetite plays an essential role in the electrical industry. The occurrence of magnetic ores in rocks such as Magnetite or ulvite enables geological studies to be carried out on the earth’s magnetic field orientation.

Due to the 100 % spin polarization of the charge carriers predicted by theory, Magnetite is also traded as a hot candidate for spin valves in spin electronics.

As a building material

Magnetite is used in the construction industry as a naturally granular aggregate with a high bulk density (4.65 to 4.80 kg/dm 3 ) for heavy concrete and structural radiation protection. Thanks to the heavy mineral, the building material can help to attain a solid concrete density of more than 3.2 t/m3; and is helpful in the construction of hospital radiology units. 

Radiation protection concrete achieves a shielding function through its mass, but an aggregate with radiation-absorbing properties such as Magnetite increases the protective effect. 

Magnetite in jewelry

Classic jewelry clasps are often extremely filigree and, therefore, difficult to close. Magnetic jewelry clasps provide a remedy; they enable necklaces and bracelets to be easily closed. The strong magnets ensure a firm hold. To open the chain or strap, wearers simply have to slide two locking parts sideways.

Wearing jewelry is helped by magentic clasps

Heat storage

Industries use natural iron oxide minerals because they can keep the heat very efficiently. They use Magnetite in heat blocks in night storage heaters. Magnetite facilitates more extensive storage of thermal heat much more sustainably compared to other materials.

Magnetite is used in foundry metal protection

The mineral helps to prevent surface defects in metal fixtures in foundries. Natural mineral magnetite where it crashed into a pure, dry, and fine powder that’s used to protected casted metals.

Magnetic therapeutic beliefs in ancient times

Magnetism has been used traditional therapies for thousands of years, though modern science disputes therapeutic effect in placebo trials. The Greeks used magnetism in ancient treatments in 5th century BC. In China, magnets have been integrated into traditional therapy for over 2000 years, magnetism was also in traditional therapeutics in India and ancient Egypt to heal broken bones and other ailments.

Hippocrates described their healing power in the same way as the legendary doctor Paracelsus, who recommended treatments with magnets. Even during this time, women and men wore jewelry made from magnetic ores.

In ancient times magnetite mining became a major economic activity in the Thessalian city of Magnesia. Today, like the ancient Greeks, Canada has a reputation as a leading mining nation with the minerals sector as a core part of the economy. Magnetite mining supports jobs and increases economic growth in provinces and territories where it is mined along with broader benefits to Canada’s national economic output.

Mining facts

Silver and Silver Mining

Silver is a soft metal with many valuable properties that make it a desirable resource for reasons both practical and luxurious. The chemical element goes by the ‘Ag’ symbol on the periodic table of elements and comes with a melting point of 962°C. It is superior to other metals in that it exhibits high levels of thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity, and metal reflectivity. Read on to find out more about this highly prized metal in its uses, history, and application and influence regarding the modern world.

Silver Mining in Canada

Canada has a robust mining industry that produces many minerals, silver among them. Canada produces gold, coal, potash, iron ore, copper, and silver, among other minerals mined. Canada placed fourteenth on a list of countries producing silver in 2017, producing 12.7 million ounces. Global production of silver in 2017 was 852.1 million ounces.

Canada features many concentrated production areas where mines are located and silver mining in Canada takes place, mainly in BC, Ontario, New Brunswick and Québec. Every year, Canada is able to produce over a thousand tons of silver to bring to market.

British Columbia is home to a number of Canadian mining companies and has a storied history of mining for this precious metal. The Sullivan lead-zinc-silver mine used to be one of the world’s largest producing 280 million ounces of silver while the mine was in production from 1909 through 2001.

Much of Canada’s silver production comes from mining as a byproduct; National Resources Canada states that most Canadian mines are polymetallic. As a result, silver is derived frequently from ores made out of copper and nickel, copper and zinc, and gold and lead. Besides ores, silver can be recovered from various recycled materials. Silver mining continues to be a source of income for the mining companies as well as having the effect of boosting Canada’s GDP.

Uses for Silver

This beautiful metal with the white luster is used in many ways and for many things. The metal is resistant to corrosion, and its malleable nature means that it can be worked with in different ways, whether being rolled, drawn out into a finer form, or other practical methods. Here are some of the most practical and popular uses,

  • Utensils and silverware
  • Jewelry
  • Ornaments
  • Industrial materials and applications
  • Electronics
  • Mirrors
  • Batteries
  • Water purification systems
  • Silver plating for art
  • Coins and currency
  • Dental alloys
  • Medical products, such as surgical pins and plates
  • Photographic film, paper (accounts for nearly a quarter of fabrication silver demand)

Silver is the most conductive element on the periodic table of elements, followed by copper and then by gold. Silver owes its conductivity to its single valence electron, moving freely between atoms of silver. Due to the high price of silver, it is not typically used in wiring but can be found in high value electronics. Copper is more typically used as its price and conductivity are suitably matched for use in household appliances.

History of Silver

Silver has long been prized by people around the world. The metal is easy to work with, can be used for different purposes, and it’s attractive. Silver was used to make up currency such as coins and was used in utensils, ornaments, jewelry, decorations, and so much more through the centuries. Now, a brief summary of the history of silver.

Silver coins from ancient Greece

Ancient Civilizations

Ancient peoples used silver for many things. It was used for jewelry, for eating utensils, and for ornamental purposes. Silver mining can be traced back to 3,000 B.C. in Greece and Turkey. Ancient people were able to refine the element by heating silver ore, using a cupellation process to blow air over it. As a result, base metals would oxidize and separate, leaving the silver to be then worked further.

1500-1800 A.D.

In 1492, the Europeans arrived at what they called the New World. It was then that the explorers from Spain realized that South America was home to a fortune. It had veins of silver as well as silver ore ready to be exploited. The Spanish mined the silver and from 1500 to 1800, the majority of silver produced in the world would come from Bolivia, Mexico, and Peru (85%).

Industrial Age

With so many practical industrial purposes, silver in industry was an important part of the Industrial Revolution. Around 1750, an age was beginning, powered by the fossil fuels that provided the energy that pushed it forward. Machines and factories could now run on the large amounts of oil, coal, and natural gas that were being produced. Silver’s malleability gave it a variety of uses and meant that it could make up different products on its own or as part of its alloy. It was also used in a monetary application as well, in currency and in national reserves.

Modern Times

Silver is especially an important element in modern times. Many countries produce silver, including the United States, Mexico, Peru, Canada, Australia, China, Poland, Russia, Bolivia, and Chile, to name a few of the large-scale producers. The metal continues to be a popular material used to make up everything from tableware and silverware to jewelry, mirrors, alloys, batteries, and more.

Silver in Jewelry and Luxury Goods

Silver finds practical and aesthetic use in silver jewelry as well as luxury goods. These products also serve as a large portion of the demand for silver. Silverware, jewelry and industrial use account for about 70% of the demand for the metal’s fabrication. Since pure silver is actually too soft to make up the entirety of the product, sterling silver is often a practical choice. The alloy is made up of 92.5% silver, 7.5% copper, with variations or different metals sometimes used.

Silver is a frequent choice for many types of jewelry. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, bangles, and more are usually offered in two options, silver or gold. But silver is also increasingly starting to prove useful when it comes to being incorporated into clothing. The antimicrobial properties of this metal means that silver nanoparticles may be woven into clothing, which discourages bacterial build up and provides a luxury material that is more breathable and comfortable to wear.

Sterling silver necklace
Sterling silver necklace

Other luxury goods that feature silver are electronics. Electronics frequently use silver as part of their wiring. It is also a necessary ingredient for photographic film, which accounts for a large range of the demand for the silver (25%). Silver jewelry and similar aesthetic items also make up a smaller but substantial demand for silver production. The element is also used in art to make up silver plating.

Silver as a Reserve Commodity

Silver is in demand as a reserve commodity much like gold, and has been used to back currencies in the past. Silver reserves are used as countries as a type of security. Silver continues to hold value, thus countries set silver aside. In 2019, Peru had a silver reserve that had reached 120,000 tons.

10oz bars of silver from the Royal Canadian Mint
Mining facts

Gold, Nickel, fashion and Canadian mining

We can’t wait until the day we have a reason to dress up again!

Until then, let’s talk about how Canadian mining provides minerals that help shape fashion trends here and around the world. 

Gold  has been used for making jewelry for thousands of years. Artisans of ancient civilizations used gold lavishly in decorating tombs and temples, and gold objects made more than 5,000 years ago have been found in Egypt.

What makes gold such an excellent mineral for jewelry making? Special properties of gold make it perfect for manufacturing jewelry, including very high luster; desirable yellow color; tarnish resistance; ability to be drawn into wires, hammered into sheets, or cast into shapes. These are all properties of an attractive metal that is easily worked into beautiful objects. Another extremely important factor that demands the use of gold as a jewelry metal is tradition. Important objects are expected to be made from gold.

Gold is mined in 9 Canadian provinces and territories, and is the highest valued commodity produced in Canada by value of production. Demand for gold production continues to grow each year. In fact, half of the global demand for gold is used for jewelry production.

Nickel also plays an important role in fashion. Nickel is used to make earrings – and the posts assembled into pierced ears – necklaces, bracelets and chains, anklets, finger rings, wrist-watch cases, watch straps, rivet buttons, rivets, zippers and metal marks.

Canada ranks fifth in the world for nickel mining and refined nickel mining, with 7.7% of global mined production.

Exploration Mining facts

Copper, Gold, Indium, and Canadian mining in our lives

Never before in history has technology played such an integral role in our daily lives.

From Zoom meetings on our iPads, to multi-monitor at-home workstations, to celebrating a holiday with our loved ones through a screen, our devices are our access to the world.

Canadian mining provides the materials that make the devices the world uses to communicate.

In 2019, Canada mined over 577,000 metric tons of Copper. Many of the largest Copper mines in Canada, such as Teck’s Highland Valley Copper and Newcrest/ Imperial Metal’s Red Chris mine, are located in BC .

Copper is used in computer chips, car batteries, and electrical wire. A smartphone handset consists of approximately 40% metals, predominantly copper, gold, platinum, silver and tungsten.

Gold is mined in 9 Canadian provinces and territories, and is the highest valued commodity produced in Canada by value of production. Demand for gold production continues to grow each year.

Most gold is used for jewelry making, but approximately 7.6% of the demand for gold is for use in technology applications, mostly as a component of microcircuitry in a range of electronic products. Gold is also an essential element used in health care treatments and applications, including cancer treatment and rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Indium is “the everyday metal you never see”. According to the USGS, Canada is one of the top six producers of indium in the world. In fact, Teck is a key contributor as one of the largest single source producers of indium in the world.

So what is Indium used in? This is best explained by a US publication, Mining News North:

“If you are reading this article on your computer, tablet or phone, you are almost certainly looking through indium, and if that devise happens to be a touchscreen, you have the unique properties of this critical mineral to thank as you scroll down to read more about indium and where it can be found in Alaska.

This is because indium-tin oxide is used as a transparent conducting film applied to virtually every flat-panel display and touchscreen on the market. This thin coating transforms incoming electrical data into an optical form.

When it comes to the combination of characteristics required for this widely used application – transparency; electrical conductivity; strong adherence to glass; corrosion resistance; and chemical and mechanical stability – indium-tin oxide has no equal.”

Community Mining facts

Mount Polley is Canadian Mining, Hockey is Canada’s sport

Hockey is Canada’s Sport!

And mining plays a big role in making the sport possible.

Hockey sticks, skates and nets are all made of materials mined in Canada.

The most popular hockey sticks are one-piece composite sticks — typically of graphite, though unique materials such as Kevlar and titanium are also used, and occasionally coatings such as nickel cobalt are applied for added strength.

Blades on hockey skates are generally made of tempered steel and coated with a high-quality chrome. Some blade manufacturers may add titanium to the metal.

Graphite, titanium, steel, chrome, nickel and cobalt are all mined in Canada. In fact, Nickel was first discovered in Canada in 1883, and began being mined in the 1890s.

Today, Canada is one of the world’s five top five nickel-producing countries.