Oxidation states: Fe2+S1-2 (AM 87.1692-1698)
Sulphide, the isometric paramorph of marcasite, which is orthorhombic
Bravoite is a nickel-bearing variety of pyrite
Specific gravity: 4.8 to 5
Hardness: 6 to 6½
Streak: Greenish black
Colour: Pale brass-yellow
Solubility: Insoluble in hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid; slightly soluble in nitric acid
Common impurities: Ni,Co,As,Cu,Zn,Ag,Au,Tl,Se,V
Plutonic igneous environments
Pyrite is the most common and widespread of the sulphide minerals. It forms at both high and low temperature,
but the largest masses probably at high temperature.
It is found in plutonic igneous environments including pegmatites and
carbonatites; it is a common mineral in
clastic and also chemical sedimentary rocks, being both
primary and secondary.
It occurs in
contact metamorphic deposits,
hydrothermal replacement deposits, hydrothermal replacement
lodes and as a primary mineral in
hypothermal (high temperature) and
mesothermal (moderate temperature) hydrothermal veins.
Pyrite may be found in dolostone and limestone.
It is associated with many minerals but found most frequently with chalcopyrite and sphalerite.
The Two Mile and Three Mile deposits, Paddy's River, Paddys River District, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, are skarn deposits at the contact between granodiorite and volcanic rocks. Pyrite is a primary sulphide, and the commonest sulphide in the Two Mile deposit. It occurs as grains and small aggregates in magnetite together with quartz and chlorite, and generally associated with other sulphides, particularly chalcopyrite (AJM 22.1.37).
At the Mount Kelly deposit, Gunpowder District, Queensland, Australia, the deposit has been mined for oxide and supergene copper ores, predominantly malachite, azurite and chrysocolla. The ores overlie primary zone mineralisation consisting of quartz-dolomite-sulphide veins hosted in dolomite-bearing siltstone and graphitic schist.
Pyrite occurs in quartz-carbonate veins with chalcopyrite, and as finely disseminated grains throughout the siltstone, together with minor chalcopyrite and rare sphalerite. Weathered pyrite is associated with covellite, hematite, jarosite, goethite and brochantite. Paragenesis for the primary zone is dolomite followed by pyrite, then chalcopyrite and sphalerite, and lastly bornite (AJM 22.1.20 & 25).
At Mount Moliagul, Moliagul, Central Goldfields Shire, Victoria, Australia, pyrite crystals to 3 mm are found commonly with molybdenite in cavities in the quartz veins, in aplite and in granodiorite (AJM 21.1.44).
At the Mount Deverell variscite deposit, Milgun Station, Western Australia, crystals of pyrite have been replaced by goethite, alunite, variscite, crandallite and apatite. The variscite deposits are hosted by marine sedimentary rocks (AJM 20.2.27).
In Bulgaria pyrite pseudomorphs after chalcopyrite have been found (R&M 95.3.275).
At the Blue Points mine, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, pyrite has been found with chalcopyrite and marcasite (R&M 94.4.326), and as inclusions in quartz variety amethyst (R&M 94.4.325, 333).
At the Pioneer quarry, Kwun Tong District, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, the contact between granite and tuff is very sharp, and many veins and stringers of aplite and pegmatite from the batholith invade the country rock. The granite near the contact contains crystals of fluorite, pyrite, molybdenite and quartz, and calcite-filled vugs. Calcite also occurs along joint planes (Geological Society of Hong Kong Newsletter 1.7.6).
At Kwun Yum Shan, Yuen Long District, New Territories, Hong Kong, China, the deposit is a hydrothermal deposit which lies along a fault zone withi altered acid volcanic rocks, consisting mainly of chlorite, biotite, sericite and actinolite with scattered quartz (Hong Kong Minerals (1991). Peng, C J. Hong Kong Urban Council).
There are several “hot pots” near the top of the hill. These hot pots were thought to be outlets of warm and moist air, which is heated below the ground and ejected through fissures and cracks in the rocks. The rocks here, however, are more likely to be pyroclastic in nature. Mineral veins of quartz, pyrite and galena can be identified, and large crystals of quartz are present in the rock. The Hong Kong Geological Survey has now re-interpreted the rock as an altered intrusive rhyolitic hyaloclastite. It is possible that the outcrop marks a vent feeder of volcanic rocks (Geological Society of Hong Kong newsletter 14.1).
At the Lin Ma Hang mine, North District, New Territories, Hong Kong, China, the lead-zinc deposit is a hydrothermal deposit which lies along a fault zone within altered acid volcanic rocks, consisting mainly of chlorite, biotite, sericite and actinolite, with scattered quartz. (Hong Kong Minerals (1991). Peng, C J. Hong Kong Urban Council)
The mineralisation consists of a series of fissure vein deposits varying from a few millimetres to several metres in width. The initial vein filling was coarse milky quartz. this was followed by an intrusion of fine-grained quartz carrying the metallic minerals, galena, pyrite, sphalerite and chalcopyrite, in order of abundance (Geological Society of Hong Kong Newsletter, 9, No.4, 3-27).
Pyrite occurs as granular masses (Hong Kong Minerals (1991). Peng, C J. Hong Kong Urban Council).
At Devil's Peak, Sai Kung District, New Territories, Hong Kong, China, the mineralisation occurred in quartz veins in the contact zone between a granite intrusion and acid volcanic rocks. The mine is now closed, and inaccessible for collecting. Pyrite occurred as granular or compact masses and cubic crystals with beryl, wolframite and molybdenite (Hong Kong Minerals (1991). Peng, C J. Hong Kong Urban Council)
The Ma On Shan Mine, Ma On Shan, Sha Tin District, New Territories, Hong Kong, China, is an abandoned iron mine, with both underground and open cast workings. The iron ores contain magnetite as the ore mineral and occur predominantly as masses of all sizes enclosed in a large skarn body formed by contact metasomatism of dolomitic limestone at the margins of a granite intrusion. In parts of the underground workings magnetite is also found in marble in contact with the granite. The skarn rocks consist mainly of tremolite, actinolite, diopside and garnet. Pyrite occurs as fine crystals lining the walls of veins and associated with calcite, fluorite or quartz (Hong Kong Minerals (1991). Peng, C J. Hong Kong Urban Council)
The Needle Hill Mine, Needle Hill, Sha Tin District, New Territories, Hong Kong, China, is a tungsten mine, abandoned in 1967. The principal ore is wolframite, and the principal gangue mineral is quartz. Molybdenum also occurs. The mineralisation consists of a series of parallel fissure veins that cut through granite. Wolframite and quartz are the main minerals, but galena, sphalerite, pyrite, molybdenite and fluorite have also been found here (Geological Society of Hong Kong Newsletter 9.3.29-40). Pyrite occurs in wolframite-molybdenite-quartz veins (Hong Kong Minerals (1991). Peng, C J. Hong Kong Urban Council)
At Chuen Lung, Tsuen Wan District, New Territories, Hong Kong, China, in fissure veins in granite rocks in a small stream near Chuen Lung, silver-bearing galena occurs associated with massive granular amber coloured sphalerite, chalcopyrite, pyrite and pyrrhotite (Hong Kong Minerals (1991). Peng, C J. Hong Kong Urban Council)
The Lin Fa Shan deposit, Tsuen Wan District, New Territories, Hong Kong, China, is located in a remote area of the Tai Mo Shan Country Park, on a steep west facing slope of Lin Fa Shan, just above the abandoned village of Sheung Tong. The surrounding hillsides are covered with shallow excavations, representing past searches for wolframite, the natural ore of tungsten. The abandoned workings are extremely dangerous with unsupported tunnels, open shafts and no maintenance since their closures in 1957; the workings should not be entered (http://industrialhistoryhk.org/lin-shan).
Pyrite occurs in wolframite-molybdenite-quartz veins, sometimes associated with muscovite (Hong Kong Minerals (1991). Peng, C J. Hong Kong Urban Council).
At Santa Eulalia, Aquiles Serdán Municipality, Chihuahua, Mexico, pyrite pseudomorphs after pyrrhotite have been found (R&M 95.3.275).
At Berg Aukas, Grootfontein, Otjozondjupa Region, Namibia, pyrite is disseminated in some of the ore bodies, but goethite pseudomorphs after pyrite are more prevalent than unaltered pyrite (R&M 96.2.132).
The paragenetic sequence for the sulphides is proposed to be pyrite (oldest) - bornite - chalcopyrite - tennantite - sphalerite - galena - enargite - germanite - renierite - tetrahedrite - jordanite (youngest) (R&M 96.2.113).
At the Huanzala mine, Peru, pyrite pseudomorphs after pyrrhotite have been found (KL p132).
At the Witwatersdand Goldfield, South Africa, pyrite occurs in two forms. One is so-called buckshot pyrite, well rounded smooth nodules that may be detrital. Also large well formed crystals of secondary pyrite are relatively common in some gold mines. They are usually simple cubes, up to 9 cm on edge. Some calcite specimens have attractive dustings of tiny pyrite crystals on the surfaces of the calcite. Associated minerals include quartz, calcite, sphalerite and galena (R&M 96.4.335-337).
At Alderley Edge, Cheshire, England, UK, copper mineralised solutions percolated through porous sandstone and deposited barium, cobalt, copper, lead, vanadium and zinc minerals between the sand grains. Anhydrite formed as cement in permeable rocks, then baryte was deposited, followed by pyrite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite and galena. Subsequently a second generation of baryte and iron-rich calcite followed. These minerals crystallised from highly saline, sulphate-rich brines, at a temperature of 50 to 60oC. About 65 million years ago the deposit was uplifted, and oxygenated ground water oxidised original sulphide minerals; pyrite was oxidised to goethite (RES pps 49-50).
At the Clargillhead vein, Garrigill, Alston Moor, Eden, Cumbria, England, UK, pyrite is present in minor amounts both in the fluorite and quartz gangue and in shale clasts. Early framboidal (a texture in which pellets form spheroidal aggregates resembling a raspberry) pyrite, up to 10 microns in diameter, occurs in galena and in the gangue. The main generation of pyrite forms 2 to 80 micron diameter pentagonal dodecahedral crystals in both galena and the quartz and fluorite gangue. Post-galena pyrite forms 2 to10 micron wide veinlets up to several hundreds of microns in length along open cleavage planes in galena. Locally pyrite is oxidised to limonite. Marcasite grains up to 5 microns, though very rare, are enclosed within pyrite grains and are also present in the gangue (JRS 23.51).
At the Hampstead Farm quarry, Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire, England, UK, pyrite occurs with baryte and calcite (RES pps 173).
At Croft Quarry, Croft, Blaby, Leicestershire, England, UK, small amounts of pyrite have been found associated with magnetite and molybdenite. Pyrite also occurs as groups of dull brown cubes to 1 mm with calcite, minor chalcopyrite and marcasite on analcime (JRS 20.23-24).
At Granitethorpe quarry, Sapcote, Blaby, Leicestershire, England, UK, pyrite occurs with epidote and some large crystals of pink feldspar; it seems likely that this is an occurrence associated with a pegmatite. Pyrite has been found forming the cores of nodular masses consisting of pyrite, quartz and epidote, completely enclosed within the formerly quarried tonalite which were presumably xenoliths (JRS 20.24).
At Earl Ferrers mine, Staunton Harold, Leicestershire, England, UK, pyrite is associated with sphalerite and galena (RES pps 216).
At Coalfield North opencast, Heather, Leicestershire, England, UK, pyrite is associated with calcite (RES pps 227).
At the Wotherton mine, Chirbury, Shropshire, England, UK, pyrite is associated with calcite and chalcopyrite (RES pps 285).
At Llynclys quarry, near Oswestry, Shropshire, England, UK, pyrite occurs in a mudstone - clay matrix (RES pps 295).
At the Magma mine, Pioneer District, Pinal county, Arizona, USA, pyrite is sometimes associated with quartz (R&M 95.1.86-87).
At Willow Springs, Pinal county, Arizona, USA, limonite pseudorphs after pyrite occur in quartz veins R&M 94.2.166).
At the Fat Jack mine, Yavapai county, Arizona, USA, limonite pseudorphs after pyrite are not uncommon R&M 94.2.165).
At the Emmons pegmatite, Greenwood, Oxford county, Maine, USA, pyrite is associated with sphalerite in rhodochrosite masses with lithiophilite. Pyrite replaced by goethite occurs in cavities of the albite replacement mass. The Emmons pegmatite is an example of a highly evolved boron-lithium-cesium-tantalum enriched pegmatite (R&M 94.6.514).
At the Little Gem amethyst mine, Jefferson county, Montana, USA, pyrite occurs in scattered small concentrations, mostly altered to limonite. Unaltered pyrite occurs only as small crystals included in the quartz variety amethyst (R&M 93.6.512).
At the PC Mine, Cataract Mining District, Jefferson county, Montana, USA, pyrite occurred as simple heavily striated cubes to 3 cm in association with quartz, but few pockets contained pyrite (R&M 96.6.494).
At Cookes Peak mining district, Luna county, New Mexico, USA, pyrite is almost always associated with primary galena and sphalerite as massive replacement lenses in the un-oxidised portions of mines (R&M 94.3.233).
Amity, Town of Warwick, Orange county, New York, USA, is an area of granite intrusions into marble and associated gneiss. The marble is mostly composed of white crystalline calcite that often has small flakes or spheres of graphite and phlogopite. Pyrite is occasionally found in striated cubes with modified faces. Many of these crystals are dark with a surface alteration to goethite (R&M 96.5.439).
At the Pyrites Mica mine, St Lawrence county, New York, USA, pyrite is associated with meionite (R&M 93.4.343).
At the Suever Stone Company quarry, Delphos, Van Wert county, Ohio, USA, pyrite is found throughout the quarry. Crystals occurred in pockets and within the dolostone matrix. Pyrite can be found that preceded fluorite or grew simultaneously with it or followed it, showing that the pyrite had a longer period of deposition than the fluorite.
In some pockets pyrite crystals are found intergrown with fluorite. The pyrite crystals have a “root” extending into the fluorite more or less perpendicular to the fluorite face from which they protrude. These interesting crystals demonstrate that the fluorite and pyrite were growing at the same time.
Some pyrite crystals have little dimples on their surface that look like tiny droplets of water, but they are composed entirely of pyrite; Circular rings are also found, and sometimes the area between crystals appears to have a puddle of water filling the gap, but it is all pyrite, and the pyrite that fills these features is crystallographically continuous with the surrounding crystal. Some calcite and fluorite crystals from this quarry display similarly uncommon features, and all of these unusual examples have one thing in common, they were found in oil-saturated pockets; the mechanism for their formation, however, is not known (R&M 95.6.509-513).
At Pelican Point, Utah, USA, goethite pseudomorphs after pyrite have been found (KL p144).
The Purple Diopside Mound, Rose Road, Pitcairn, St. Lawrence county, New York, USA, is situated in marble. The development of veins of large crystals probably occurred as a result of fluid penetration from a concurrent intrusion. Many of the minerals of interest to collectors formed during this primary event, with additional species resulting from the subsequent alteration of scapolite. There seems to be little, if any, secondary, late-stage mineralisation present.
Pyrite occurs as oriented capillary prisms in meionite, as microscopic equant crystals in marialite, as cubic crystals to 1 cm associated with prehnite, and as scattered small crystals and masses that have largely altered to goethite (R&M 96.6.552).
Marcasite and pyrite are paramorphs. Marcasite is a mineral of low-temperature, near-surface, environments, forming from acid solutions. Pyrite is the more stable form of FeS2, and forms in higher temperatures and lower acidity or alkaline environments.
Oxidation of pyrite forms ferrous (divalent) sulphate and sulphuric acid:
pyrite + oxygen + H2O → ferric sulphate + sulphuric acid
FeS2 + 7O + H2O → FeSO4 + H2SO4
The ferrous (divalent) sulphate readily oxidizes to ferric (trivalent) sulphate and ferric hydroxide:
ferrous sulphate + oxygen + H2O → ferric sulphate + ferric hydroxide
6FeSO4 + 3O + 3H2O → 2Fe2(SO4)3 + 2Fe(OH)3
Ferric sulphate is a strong oxidizing agent, and it attacks sulphide minerals in hydrothermal veins, to form soluble salts which trickle downwards through the deposit to be redeposited in the enrichment zone (AMU b3-3.7).
Cu2+, pyrite and H2O to chalcocite, Fe2+, (SO4)2- and H+
14Cu2+ + 5FeS2 + 12H2O → 7Cu2S + 5Fe2+ + 3(SO4)2- +24H+
Because chalcocite is less soluble than pyrite, supergene chalcocite may form below the zone of oxidation when dissolved copper ions Cu2+ replace ferrous ions Fe2+ from pyrite.
chalcopyrite, arsenopyrite and pyrite to Fe-tennantite and troilite
10CuFeS2 + 4FeAsS + FeS2 → Cu10Fe2As4S13 + 13FeS
chalcopyrite, arsenopyrite and sulphur to Fe-tennantite and pyrite
10CuFeS2 + 4FeAsS + 13/2S2 → Cu10Fe2As4S13 + 12FeS2
This reaction occurs at a comparatively low temperature (CM 28.725-738).
chalcopyrite, stibnite and sulphur to Fe-tetrahedrite and pyrite
10 CuFeS2 + 2 Sb2S3 + 3/2 S2 → Cu10Fe2As4S13 + 8FeS2
enargite and pyrite to Fe-tennantite, chalcopyrite and sulphur
4Cu3AsS4 + 4FeS2 → Cu10Fe2As4S13 + 2CuFeS2 + 7/2S2
pyrite (primary) O and H2O to secondary melanterite and sulphuric acid.
FeS2 + 7O + 8H2O → FeSO4.7H2O + H2SO4
Melanterite indicates the presence of sulphuric acid, and it should be handled with care.
stibnite and pyrite to berthierite and sulphur
Sb2S3 + FeS2 → FeSb2S4 + l/2S2
The diagram below is a Pourbaix diagram for Cu-Fe-S-H2O (IJNM 07(02).9.23). It shows the relationship between copper Cu, chalcopyrite CuFeS2, tenorite CuO, covellite CuS, cuprite Cu2O, chalcocite Cu2S, pyrite FeS2 and hematite Fe2O3.
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