Occurrence and Exploitation of Amphibole Asbestos in South Africa

Dreyer, C. J. B. ; Robinson, H. A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 20
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1986
Only South Africa can be considered in terms of resources of amphibole asbestos. There are two asbestos producing fields, one in the Northern Cape Province (producing only crocidolite), and one in the Eastern Transvaal (producing only amosite). This chapter discusses the banded ironstone sequence in which amphibole asbestos occurs, and the genesis of the fiber is briefly reviewed. Also, the properties and characteristics of amphibole asbestos are discussed and compared to those of chrysotile. Approximately 300 000 t of arnosite and crocidolite are produced annually. Crocidolite has a potential for a fivefold increase of production chat could be sustained beyond the year 2000. An estimate of the resources of the various producing fields in South Africa is made. The mining methods are also reviewed and evaluation techniques are discussed. The only two types of amphibole asbestos exploited at present in South Africa are amosite [the white colored amphibole asbestos) and crocidolite (the blue colored asbestos). As is well known, crocidolite has been mined in South Africa from the early part of this century, and amosite since the early 1930's. Since these dates, asbestos mining has developed into a significant mining industry. The annual production of crocidolite is approximately 170 000 to 200 000 t. and amosite production is in the region of 80 000 to 100 000 t. CLASSIFICATION OF AMPHIBOLE ASBESTOS Four types of amphibole asbestos are produced economically in the world today: (1) crocidolite, the fibrous equivalent of riebeckite, (2) arnosite, the fibrous equivalent of grunerite, (3) trernolite, and (4) anthophylite. The names trernolite and grunerite apply equally to the crystal and fibrous forms of these minerals. For comparison and clarification purposes, the six known varieties of asbestiform minerals known in the world are shown in Table 1. All the asbestos minerals were originally developed as cross fiber seams in veins or fractures, or were controlled by the lithology. Post- fiber effects caused slip, sheared, and folded fiber seams. Crocidolite and amosite occur in banded ironstone of early Proterozoic age of the Transvaal Supergroup. The fiber seams are developed in certain defined lithological units in the banded ironstone sequence. The lithological units have a remarkable lateral persistence with respect to their chemical nature and physical appearance. Vertically, the banded ironstone sequence displays a heterogeneous nature. Commercial Applications The features and properties that make amphibole asbestos commercially attractive are: 1) The long average length of the fibers is good for greater wet strength in composites. 2) The high tensile strength of crocidolite makes it superior to all other types of asbestos. 3) It is characterized by dispersion in most liquid media, particularly amosite in water. 4) Since the surface charge of amosite and crocidolite is negative, the fibers produce an open lattice work in water with a high bulk volume giving excellent filtration rates and rapid drainage in a wet asbestos cement mix. 5) The insulating properties of amphibole asbestos mats are still important, particularly in a corrosive environment, despite the introduction of many other synthetic insulating materials. 6) Corrosion resistance, particularly acid corrosion resistance. 7) Due to the high modulus of amphibole fibers, resins reinforced with these fibers exhibit
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