Roofing slate mineralogy – Part II
03/08/2013 Leave a comment
Secondary and accessory minerals
Formed during the metamorphic processes that originated the roofing slates. The most common secondary minerals in slates s.s. are iron sulphides (pyrite and pyrrhotite), carbonates (calcite and ankerite) and chloritoid. The iron sulfides are formed during the post-metamorphic processes. Some authors point out their origin as the remains of organic matter that could be contained in the slate matrix. Depending on the geological conditions and the ratio of iron (Fe) and sulfur (S), these iron sulfides may end up being different minerals with different potentials for oxidation.
On the other hand, the carbonates are normally deposited occupying the empty spaces and voids that could be in the rock matrix. The chloritoid is formed perpendicular to the slaty cleavage. This mineral appears only in some types of slates with a high content of magnesium (Mg) and a slightly higher metamorphic grade than the average of slates s.s.
From the point of view of quality, iron sulfides and carbonates play a decisive role, since they are alterable minerals. Their appearance is undesirable. The chloritoid may cause fissility problems, since it grows perpendicular to the slaty cleavage, hindering the correct elaboration of the tiles.
They are found in quantities below 5%. The most common are tourmaline, rutile-leucoxene, zircon, monazite and organic matter. They have no importance for the quality of the board, since they are not alterable, with exception of the organic matter. This can be found under the form of graphite, small fragments of between 5 and 30 microns, which are opaque seen to the microscope. It can become very abundant in localized areas of a quarry and is often linked to iron sulfides. Organic matter also undergoes oxidative processes, although do not causes color changes. Its alteration leads the pH to decrease, acidifying the medium and greatly accelerating the oxidation rate of the iron sulfides. Sometimes the accumulation of organic matter can be seen on the surface of the slate, forming what the miners call “burnt slate“. This slate is not usable to make plates, and it should be discarded.
1. Chloritoid crystal in a Galician slate, Spain
2. Small chloritoids in a slate from Arouca, Portugal
3. Turmaline fragment in a slate from Monte Rande, Galicia, Spain
4. Monazite in a slate from Puente de Domingo Flórez, León, Spain
5. Small black and rounded fragments of organic matter in a shale from Minas Gerais, Brazil
6. The upper half of the image corresponds to an exceptional accumulation of organic matter, known as “burnt slate”