Barite (BaSO4) is the most abundant ore of barium. Its high specific gravity makes it valuable in the petroleum exploration and production industry as a weighting agent in drilling fluids that are used to confine high oil and gas pressures and prevent ‘blowouts’. Barite is also used in glass making and as a white pigment in paint.
There are several small barite deposits in Victoria. Total production to date from all operations is about 1000 tonnes. The largest barite deposits in Victoria are found in rocks known as the Lower Devonian Snowy River Volcanics. The barite occurs with quartz–sulphide mineralisation and probably formed near the end of episodes of volcanic activity.
The three largest barite deposits that have been mined in Victoria are the Glen Shiel and Kanni Creek (both in felsic volcanic rocks) and the Boulder Flat deposit (in Errinundra Group rocks). The barite produced from shallow open cuts in the Boulder Flat area in the early to mid-1980s was used mainly for drilling muds in the Bass Strait oilfield.
Several hundred tonnes of barite were probably mined from the Kanni Creek area north of Nowa Nowa, but there is no record of production details. The remaining barite at Kanni Creek appears to be iron-stained, which makes it unattractive to further exploitation or exploration.
Rocks of Cambrian age in the Dookie area contain minor amounts of barite, but no economically viable deposits have been identified to date. The most notable occurrence in this area is in a shallow pit at Mount Major, where bedded barium sulphate has replaced beds of chert. Cambrian greenstones along the northern margin of the Melbourne Trough also contain minor amounts of barite.
Barite is also found as a gangue mineral in quartz–sulphide veins in many gold and base metal deposits.
- Industrial minerals and rocks of Victoria - Geological Survey of Victoria Report 102
- Copper, lead, zinc and barium deposits of Victoria - Geological Survey of Victoria Bulletin 61
- Dookie 1:100 000 map geological report - Geological Survey of Victoria Report 87
- Geology of Victoria - Geological Society of Australia
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