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The Mineral nitratine

Fibrous Nitratine

Nitratine, along with Niter, are unusual minerals belonging to the nitrates group. These two nitrate minerals can be visually indistinguishable, with the ancient term Niter used to describe both Niter and Nitratine. Nitratine is actually the more prevalent and economically important member of the group.

Nitratine is found as an efflorescence in arid environments, where it rarely rains. It is highly soluble in water, and it also deliquescent, which will make it absorb moisture in humid environments. This will cause the Nitratine to crumble into a wet puddle, so care should be taken to preserve specimens in air-tight containers or spray them with a desiccant.

Nitratine is named for its composition of nitrate and to distinguish it from Niter. Most of the ancient nitrate material was in fact Nitratine, although in those times chemical distinctions between these two minerals were never made.

Chemical Formula

NaNO3

Color

Colorless, white, light yellow, light gray, light brown

Crystal System

Hexagonal

Properties

Streak
White
Hardness
1.5 - 2
Transparency
Transparent to translucent
Specific Gravity
2.2 - 2.3
Luster
Vitreous
Cleavage
1,1
Fracture
Earthy
Tenacity
Brittle, and slightly sectile
Other ID Marks
1) Soluble in water.
2) Has a peculiar cooling taste.

Crystal Habits

In massive or grainy growths. Crystals with visible trigonal faces are uncommon. 

Additional Information

Composition
Sodium nitrate
In Group
Nitrates
Striking Features
Unique habit of formation, taste
Environment
Residual surface deposits in highly arid desert zones.
Rock Type
Sedimentary

Uses

Nitratine, along with Niter, are mined as nitrous compounds for the production of fertilizer, and have also been a source for gunpowder. Nitrate mining has been on the decrease as much of the world's demand for nitrates are now met by synthetically produced nitrates. Organic food production still requires the mining of Nitratine for a naturally-occurring fertilizing agent.

Noteworthy Localities

Nitratine is best-known from the nitrate deposits in the arid Atacama Desert region of Chile. Small amounts of Nitratine have come from the various dry lakes in the California and Nevada deserts, especially at Confidence Hills in Death Valley, Inyo Co., California.

Common Mineral Associations

Calcite, Gypsum, Halite, Polyhalite, Glauberite, Anhydrite

nitratine Photos



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