Iron-Titanium Ore

Iron-Titanium Ore (magnetite – ilmenite), from the Tahawus Mine in Newcomb, NY. 

BSK’s Lynne Baumgras, Ph.D., PG,CEG, PMP, and BSK Environmental Group Manager, educates us about an Iron-Titanium Ore rock, that she has in her collection for Earth Science Week!

This rock is from the Marcy massif of the Grenville complex which forms the core of the Adirondack Mountains.  This rock is Precambrian in age and is one of the oldest rocks found on the planet at an age of more than 1 billion years old.  As this rock is a titaniferous magnetite, it has magnetic properties.  Because it contains iron, it is also extremely heavy!  The formula for magnetite is Fe3O4, and the formula for Ilmenite is Fe2TiO3.

The History

The Tahawus Mine is located in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York State, near the headwaters of the Hudson River.  The mining community settlement of Tahawus was settled there in the 1800s and was visited frequently by Teddy Roosevelt in the early 1900s, but is now a ghost town.   This deposit where this rock was found was discovered in 1826 when a party crossed the Hudson River.

Mining in the Tahawus Mine began in the 1830s and by the 1840s it was supplying ore for the first cast-steel plant in America (Adirondack Iron and Steel Company, Jersey City, N.J.).  Eventually, the iron ore was thought to be uneconomic because it was tainted with the black ilmenite ore which contains titanium.  In 1908, a French metallurgist discovered the suitability of titanium for use as a white paint pigment.  The mine was extensively developed during, and after, World War II where it was exploited for titanium.  Titanium was used during the war for smoke screen chemicals, among other uses.  The mine was operated until the 1980s by the National Lead Company.  Titanium is used today for alloys and light metals.  Titanium is as strong as steel but much less dense.

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