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The Mineral niter




Niter, along with Nitratine, 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.

Niter is a very fragile mineral, and is poorly represented in collections. Its solubility in water restricts its occurrence to caves where it receives protection from rain. Niter often forms as powdery growths on cavern walls, and doesn't usually form in good crystals. Large crystals are not natural, and are easily grown synthetically.

Niter original name source is from the ancient Hebrew word "neter", where it is described as cleaning agent in biblical sources.
Chemical Formula KNO3
Composition Potassium nitrate
Color White, light yellow, light gray
Streak White
Hardness 2
Crystal System Orthorhombic
Crystal Forms
and Aggregates
Most of often as thin encrusting aggregates and as short and delicate acicular fibers covering rock or cavern surfaces. Hexagonally-shaped twinned crystals are also found.
Transparency Transparent to translucent
Specific Gravity 2.1
Luster Vitreous, silky
Cleavage 2,2
Fracture Earthy
Tenacity Brittle, and slightly sectile
Other ID Marks 1) Soluble in water.
2) Has a peculiar cooling taste.
In Group Nitrates
Striking Features Unique habit of formation, taste
Environment As a lining of cavern walls, and in dry soil in guano-rich bat caves. Also in arid nitrate deposits with very limited rainfall. 
Rock Type Sedimentary
Popularity (1-4) 3
Prevalence (1-3) 3
Demand (1-3) 2


Niter AUCTIONS
OTHER NAMES
Nitre
Potassium nitrate
Saltpeter



USES
Niter, along with Nitratine, 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.


NOTEWORTHY LOCALITIES
Niter has been mined in several of the cave systems of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Niter is also found and mined, along with Nitratine, in several locations in the Atacama Desert, Antofagasta Province, Chile (Tarapacá and Antofagasta provinces.)

Specimen-worthy, rosette-shaped aggregates, and fibrous "blooms" and crusts are found in Crimea, Ukraine, at Bakla Mountain, Skalistoye.

COMMON MINERAL ASSOCIATIONS
Calcite, Gypsum, Epsomite, Nitrocalcite



 
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
 
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