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May-June 2012

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Glyn L. Francis and Minerals of Iron Monarch: A Mine in South Australia

If you have a red crystalline specimen in your collection labeled variscite, most collectors will call you on it, saying, “Variscite is a massive green mineral.” Usually it is, but not from the Iron Monarch mine in South Australia. Glyn L. Francis of Whyalla, South Australia, has written a great new book about the minerals from this mine.

The Iron Monarch Mine

The Iron Monarch is one of several iron mines located in the Middleback Ranges at the top of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The ore in the area is mostly high-grade hematite from weathered Precambrian iron formations. Mining activity in the area began in the 1890s when the iron formation was used as a flux in lead smelters. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (BHP), an Australian-based mining company, located claims in the area in 1897 and started mining in 1900. The Iron Monarch mine was in operation for almost one hundred years when it closed in late 1998. Until the 1960s this area was the major iron ore producer in Australia, and 150 million tons of high-grade ore were mined at the Iron Monarch (Francis 2010). In 2000, BHP split off a new company, OneSteel, which holds the property today. (The company is headquartered in Sydney, New South Wales.) It is possible that mining at the Iron Monarch may resume in the future.

Ray Grant is a retired geology professor. His main interest is Arizona minerals and localities, and he was one of the authors in the Arizona issue of Rocks & Minerals (January/February 2012). He has traveled extensively in Australia for the past ten years.

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