Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Beryllium

One of the most important industrial metals in the world is mined right here in Utah.  It’s mined from the largest deposit of its kind on earth right here in our own back yard.Beryllium: one of the most strategic metals is mined at the Brush-Wellman Mine west of Topaz Mountain near Delta. The reason this metal is so important is because of its physical properties.  It is twice as light as aluminum, has an incredibly high melting point at 1287°C, it is not affected by air or water even when it is red hot, and it is many times stronger that other metals, even engineered metals such as titanium and steel alloys.It is used in a wide range of tools including chisels.  It is used in high-end clock and watch movements.  It is used for making bearings that will resist extreme heat.  It is also very corrosion resistant when alloyed with copper. Because of its high strength and light weight it is used to hold the guidance systems in many missiles and rockets.NASA is working on a 30 inch telescope mirror made from gem-grade optical beryllium. This special material is mined from the largest deposit of beryllium ore in the world and it’s just west of Spor Mountain which is west of Topaz Mountain.  The deposit is mined in several large open pits.  






The ore is in the form of a clay mineral called bertrandite, a beryllium oxide.  It is often stained purple by fluorite.  Manganese, opal, and quartz all soak into the clay making it hard.  Some is hard enough to cut and polish and with the fluorite and manganese this material is stunning and known as Tiffany Stone.Beryllium is also found in the beryl family of gems.  Emeralds, aquamarine, red beryl, morganite and the rest of the beryl family contain enough beryllium to make them valuable as an ore.  Fortunately, most of these gemstones are not mined as ore.  Massive beryl is mined in some places like Russia for beryllium. The Brush-Wellman mine produces about 60% of the world’s beryllium.  Stop in the store and see some of our display of beryllium including a processed rod, copper/beryllium hammer, hard drive reader arm, and ore.Warning: Beryllium is very toxic.  Do not ingest any material or breathe in the dust from grinding and polishing.



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