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Mineralogy, geochemistry and uses of the mordenite-bentonite ash-tuff beds of Los Escullos, Almería, Spain

AuthorsBenito García, R. ; García-Guinea, Javier ; Valle Fuentes, Francisco José; Recio, Paloma
Issue Date1998
CitationJournal of Geochemical Exploration 62: 229- 240 (1998)
AbstractThe mordenite ore deposit of Los Escullos has a surface area of 106 m2 with an average thickness of 5 m and estimated reserves of 7,500,000 tons of mordenite-bentonite. It is made up of horizontal layers of interbedded epiclastic tuffs with volcanic bentonitised materials which have been subjected to hydromagmatic activity. The layers are essentially composed of bentonite and mordenite with lesser amounts of quartz, cristobalite, biotite, plagioclase, chlorite, amphiboles, titanomagnetite, ilmenite and calcite. The harder layers display a higher proportion of plagioclase crystals and are enriched in Al2O3, CaO, Fe2O3, TiO2, P2O5, Cu, Zn, Co, Cr, Ni and V, while the more altered layers contain larger contents of SiO2, K2O and Y. The amount of sodium increases (from 2% to 4%) relative to depth. Alteration processes resulted in a reduction in the contents of CaO, K2O and MnO and increase in Na2O and MgO. The beds of volcanic ash-tuffs have been devitrified by hydrothermal solutions giving rise to bentonites and sodium- and silica-rich residual fluids which have partly crystallized as mordenite and cristobalite. The raw material (mordenite-bentonite) can be improved removing biotite (magnetic separation) and plagioclase and quartz (by floating methods); however, the mordenite-bentonite mineral assemblage is practically impossible to separate due to the size of the crystals (average 0.5 μm under SEM-EDAX). In turn, this upgraded raw material has very useful properties (total area = 520 m2/g and cation exchange capacity = 70 meq/100 g) which may make it suitable for use in absorption processes (e.g. deodorization, cationic exchange), catalysis and molecular sieving. © 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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