Geological Survey Program

Missouri Barite

Blue Barite Barite from Texas County

Orange Barite Barite from Washington County

Commodity:  Barite, a mineral. The word barite is derived from the Greek barus, meaning heavy.

Economic Importance:  13.4 million short tons of barite with a present value of $590 million have been mined in Missouri since the mid 1800s.

Chemical composition (chemical formula):  Barium sulfate (BaSO4).

Common names:  Barytes, Tiff, Heavy spar.

Primary Use:  Since the 1920s, from 80 to 95 percent of the barite mined around the world has been consumed in the drilling of oil and gas wells. For this purpose, finely-ground barite is added as a weighting agent to drilling mud.

Other Uses:

Properties:

Color:  Colorless, white, and light shades of blue, yellow, red; transparent to translucent; commonly stained superficially with red iron oxide.

Luster:  Vitreous, sometimes pearly in part.

Cleavage:  Two directions at 90 degrees; perfect in one direction and less perfect in the other.

Hardness:  3-3½ on Mohs scale (e.g., harder than fingernail but softer than knife blade).

Specific Gravity:  4.5 (unusually heavy for a non-metallic mineral).

Crystal Habit:  Commonly in divergent groups of tabular orthorhombic crystals that are called crested barite or barite roses; less commonly in stouter prismatic (pseudo-cubic) orthorhombic crystals.

Solubility:  Insoluble in water and not attacked by acids or bases.

Toxicity:  Barite, in and of itself, is nontoxic because of its extreme insolubility. However, elemental barium and all soluble salts of barium are very toxic.

Principal locations of barite in Missouri:

Washington County district:

Central district:

Other Occurrences:

Barite Production Map Central District Washington County District

Barite Producing Regions Explanation

Geologic Occurrence: Missouri barite occurs in rocks ranging in age from Precambrian to Pennsylvanian.

Mining:  Barite mining in Missouri began around 1850; however, early lead mining operations began as early as 1725 in the same area, but barite was cast aside as a waste product at that time.

Production History:  Missouri led U.S. production of barite for the majority of time from 1885-1971, giving way to Nevada in more recent years.

Barite Cumulate Production

Historical images from the Washington County district -- Click on one of the b/w photos to enlarge. Click browser's "back" button to return to this page.

Historical Photo--Barite from Washington County District Historical Photo--Barite from Washington County District Historical Photo--Barite from Washington County District Historical Photo--Barite from Washington County District

Typical Mining Scene, Washington County

The Story of Barytes by Allen W. Clark.  Illustration by O.E. Berninghaus.

References/additional reading:  Search the Missouri Geology Bibliography