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Fibrous Nitratine

The Mineral 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
Composition Sodium nitrate
Color Colorless, white, light yellow, light gray, light brown
Streak White
Hardness 1.5 - 2
Crystal System Hexagonal
Crystal Forms
and Aggregates
In massive or grainy growths. Crystals with visible trigonal faces are uncommon. 
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.
In Group Nitrates
Striking Features Unique habit of formation, taste
Environment Residual surface deposits in highly arid desert zones.
Rock Type Sedimentary
Popularity (1-4) 3
Prevalence (1-3) 2
Demand (1-3) 2

Nitratine AUCTIONS
Chile saltpeter
Soda niter
Sodium nitrate

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.

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.

Calcite, Gypsum, Halite, Polyhalite, Glauberite, Anhydrite

nitratine PHOTOS
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