Halite: A Unique, Multipurpose Mineral
Halite, more commonly known simply as rock salt, is arguably one of the most ubiquitous minerals in day to day life. People do not know much about this commonly used mineral. Here are some fun facts about Halite that make it the unique and multipurpose mineral it is today.
Halite has played a vital role in history
Halite is the same thing as regular table salt (except it doesn’t contain iodine), sodium chloride (NaCl). It is the only edible mineral, and it has played a crucial role in history and political relations for centuries. Historically, halite preserved food. Without refrigeration, salt and smoke were the principal means of preservation. Salt was significant enough that wars broke out because of it.
Halite has a crystal structure
Halite molecules are not randomly arranged. A lattice structure makes up the mineral. Halite classifies as having a cubic crystal system. Halite’s molecules form cubes. This cubic structure reflects in halite crystals, which often have the appearance of small cubes.
Halite deposits are often millions of years old
Halite is an “evaporite” mineral. Evaporite minerals settle out of liquids (almost always water) when the concentration becomes so dense it can no longer remain dissolved. When saltwater is cut off from the ocean, halite is deposited. Over time the water evaporates, leaving behind layers of halite. One example of this is the salt deposits under the Finger Lakes region of central New York State. These deposits are around 300 million years old. But not all halite deposits are old, nor do they necessarily take a long time to form. Utah’s Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea between Jordan and Israel are inland saltwater bodies where halite deposition is happening right now.
White isn’t the only color
Halite is most often white or colorless, but it’s color can vary widely based on impurities, structural abnormalities of the crystal lattice, or the presence of sodium or chlorine isotopes. It was mined in the Punjab region of Pakistan often has a pink hue but can be as dark as beet red. Halite can be almost any color, but typical colors are black, brown, yellow, gray, and red.
For more information on halite, particularly regarding its uses as a deicer, contact us. We are happy to assist in any way.