Definitions

pyrrhotite

pyrrhotite

[pir-uh-tahyt]
pyrrhotite or magnetic pyrites, bronze-yellow to bronze-red mineral, a sulfide of iron sometimes containing nickel. It tarnishes easily and is somewhat magnetic. It crystallizes in the hexagonal system, but appears usually in massive form, and occurs chiefly in basic igneous rocks. In some areas, e.g., at Sudbury, Ont., Canada, it is associated with pentlandite, an important ore of nickel. It is found also in the United States, Europe, and South America.

Pyrrhotite is an unusual iron sulfide mineral with a variable iron content: Fe(1-x)S (x = 0 to 0.2). The FeS endmember is known as troilite. Also called magnetic pyrite because the color is similar to pyrite and it is weakly magnetic, the magnetism increases as the iron content decreases.

Pyrrhotite is odd also because it has two crystal symmetries. When pyrrhotite is high in iron and the formula is closer to true FeS the structure is hexagonal. But, when it is low in iron, the structure is monoclinic. Both symmetries occur together in the same specimen.

The name is derived from Greek pyrrhos, flame-colored.

Pyrrhotite is a rather common trace constituent of igneous rocks. It occurs as segregation deposits from mafic igneous rocks associated with pentlandite, chalcopyrite and other sulfides. It also occurs in pegmatites and in contact metamorphic zones.

The troilite endmember, though only rarely encountered in the Earth's crust, is found in many meteorites. One iron meteorite, Mundrabilla, contains 25 to 35 volume percent troilite.

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