THE MINERAL ALTAITE

  • Chemistry: PbTe, Lead Telluride.
  • Class: Sulfides.
  • Subclass: Tellurides.
  • Group: Galena.
  • Uses: As a very minor ore of lead and tellurium and as mineral specimens.
  • Specimens

Altaite is a member of the Galena Group of minerals. Its properties are very similar to galena as it shares basically the same structure. However it is easily distinguished from the far more common galena by its white to yellowish white color and greater density. Not too many minerals are greater in density than galena! The two minerals are found together in sulfide vein ore bodies. Altaite is also associated with gold and silver and several gold and silver sulfides and tellurides such as nagyagite, sylvanite, calaverite and hessite. Altaite is a telluride mineral, a special group of minerals to collectors. Some other tellurides include coloradoite, a mercury telluride; empressite, another silver telluride; kostovite, a copper gold telluride; krennerite, a silver gold telluride; petzite, a silver gold telluride; rickardite, a copper telluride and melonite, a nickel telluride. The fondness of tellurium for the precious metals of gold, silver and copper is quite obvious in the preceding list. The lead telluride altaite is a very unique mineral.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS:

  • Color is a tin white to yellowish white; tarnishing to bronze yellow.
  • Luster is metallic.
  • Transparency: Crystals are opaque.
  • Crystal System: Isometric; 4/m bar 3 2/m.
  • Crystal Habits include cubic and octahedral crystals; but much more commonly found in massive and granular forms.
  • Cleavage: perfect in three directions forming cubes.
  • Fracture: Uneven.
  • Hardness is 2.5 - 3.
  • Specific Gravity is 8.2 - 8.3 (much heavier than average for metallic minerals)
  • Streak is black.
  • Associated Minerals include gold, silver, pyrite, nagyagite, sylvanite, calaverite, tetrahedrite, hessite, petzite, coloradoite, volynskite, sphalerite, rucklidgeite, tellurium, tetradymite, galena and other sulfides.
  • Notable Occurrences include the type locality of the Altai Mountains (hence the name), Zyrianovsk, Kazakhstan as well as the Ritchie Creek Deposit, Price County, Wisconsin; Hilltop Mine, Organ Mountains, Dona Ana County, New Mexico; the Stanislaus Mine, Calaveras County; Sawmill Flat, Tuolumne County and the Providence Mine, Nevada County, California and the Campbell Mine, Cochise County, Arizona, USA; Jewel Lake, Greenwood, British Columbia and Mattagami Lake Mine, Quebec, Canada; Sacaramb (Nagyag), Transylvania, Romania; Pribram, Czech Republic; Koch-Bulak Gold deposit, Kazakhstan; Moctezuma, Mexico and Coquimbo, Chile;
  • Best Field Indicators are crystal habit, color, perfect cubic cleavage, associations and density.

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