Southern Illinois white tripoli as filler, extender, and abrasive (Technical Note)

Pickering, S. M. ; Avant, D. M. ; Fox, W. R. ; Solomon, A. J.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Introduction Most high purity silica is produced from crystalline quartz, generally from sand. However, there is a small area of southern Illinois where a porous, friable white chert rock is found that is very different in physical form from quartz sand. This microcrystalline material, commonly referred to as tripoli, is more easily ground to micron sizes than sand. Although of similar Moh's hardness, microcrystalline tripoli is less abrasive than either ground quartz sand or many synthetic abrasives. Location The southwestern corner of Illinois is underlain by extensive deposits of very porous chert; in some places the material is quite white. Two companies, Illinois Minerals Co. and Tammsco Inc., mine and process this white material. The Illinois Minerals plant is located at Elco, and the Tammsco plant is in Tamms, IL. Both companies mine from various locations within a 10-mile truck haul of their plants. Production from this district has been continuous since at least 1915. Malvern Minerals Co. mines and processes a generally similar microcrystalline, friable novaculite near Hot Springs, AR. Geology The southern Illinois white tripoli area is on the southern flank of the Illinois Basin. The commercial silica zone is a facies of the Clear Creek chert of Lower Devonian Age. To the north, where it occurs deep in the basin, the Clear Creek is a siliceous limestone. In the mining area, thin overburden has allowed access by surface ground water, which has leached away the carbonate content and left a quite pure silica residue. Fossils characteristic of sea bottom deposition, such as brachiopods and trilobites, are occasionally encountered in mining. The structure of the mining area is poorly known, due to infrequent outcrops. Strata in most mines are inclined at dips of 5° to 20°. There appear to be occasional high angle normal and reverse faults, but these are seldom of any significance in mining. The friable white silica zone mined in the Clear Creek chert is overlain by dark brownish-red chert and siliceous shale. Exploration drilling to date has not encountered the base of the microcrystalline tripolitic zone. Chemical content Leaching by ground water solution has removed virtually all the carbonate from the original siliceous limestone. Impurities encountered are red to yellow iron oxides, aluminous clays, and occasional black manganese oxides. The silica has no detectable formula water. A typical chemical analysis and physical properties are listed in Tables 1 and 2. Mineralogy and crystallinity Southern Illinois friable tripoli appears amorphous under the polarizing microscope. No crystal structure and only occasional, vague, patchy anisotropism is evident. However, the material gives an excellent quartz X-ray diffraction pattern. Thus, so far as X-ray mineralogy is concerned, the material is clearly
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