Dolomite is a mineral that you may not have heard of, but it is still an important part of your life. Check out this lesson to learn about the structure, properties, and uses of this interesting natural resource.
More Than Just a Mineral
Rocks totally rock. You may think that they’re just sitting there, looking boring, but rocks are what hold up mountains and contain the sea; they give us roads, airplanes, buildings, and even jewelry and art. In fact, each person in the United States will use an estimated one million pounds of rocks, minerals, and metals throughout their lifetime.
Which brings us to a second point – rocks rock, but minerals rule.
Minerals are what make up rocks, giving them different properties, shapes, and structures. And the specific mineral that’s the focus of this lesson is a pretty great one as far as minerals go. It’s called dolomite, and it’s named for the French mineralogist Deodat de Dolomieu. You may hear the word dolomite being used to describe a few different things so let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what we’re actually talking about.
The true dolomite mineral is a calcium magnesium carbonate and has the chemical formula CaMg(CO3)2. There is also dolomitic limestone, which is limestone that contains dolomite, but it is not specifically the mineral itself. Additionally, dolomite may also refer to rock that contains the mineral dolomite, but to be really clear here it’s best to use the term dolostone to describe the dolomite-containing rock.
Dolostone is a common source for building materials because of its hardness and density. This includes things like concrete, asphalt, cement, and railroad ballast. Dolomite is also useful as a source of magnesium in glass and ceramics, and it is also useful for making steel.But building materials aren’t the only use of dolomite. Farmers also use this mineral for pH control in agriculture and as magnesia as a feed additive for livestock.
Dolomite is also used in the pharmaceutical industry for making magnesium salts. And believe it or not, dolomite is in your bathroom as well, hiding out in antacids, facial creams, and even toothpaste.
You may not know it, but you are already pretty familiar with the mineral dolomite.
That’s because this calcium magnesium carbonate is used in construction, pharmaceutical, art, and more. Dolomite may be found in limestone, called dolomitic limestone, as well as rock known as dolostone. Dolomite falls at 3.
5 – 4 on the Mohs hardness scale, meaning it is somewhat easy to scratch. It cleaves in three different directions, may be colorless, white, pinkish, or slightly blue, and its crystals may be transparent, translucent, or completely opaque.Dolomite is a double salt with alternating layers of calcium, carbonate, and magnesium. And along with aragonite and calcite, dolomite makes up a whopping 2% of the earth’s crust, forming mountains, seabeds, and more.