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Iron (Fe)

iron weights 2kg and 0.5kg

Iron makes up almost a third of the Earth’s mass. 

The Earth’s core is made of molten iron which gives rise to the earth’s magnetic field. Iron ores are rocks and minerals from which metallic iron can be economically extracted. The most common iron ores are Hematite and magnetite. The ores are usually rich in iron oxides and vary in colour from dark grey, bright yellow, deep purple, to rusty red. Hematite is the most important ore of iron containing 70% of the metal. It gets its name from the Ancient Greek word for blood, because of its reddish streak.

Iron has many uses, it is mostly used to make steel. It is also used to make magnets and auto parts, and is also used in medicine, paint, fertiliser and in the electronics industry. 

Iron is widespread throughout Cornwall, its occurrence was noted in the 17th century, but it was not until the latter part of the 19th century that any significant mining was undertaken. Iron was found at Geevor in a wide variety of minerals but the quantity of iron produced was small and had little value. Along with cassiterite the lodes contained large amounts of iron oxides such as hematite and magnetite with some siderite (iron carbonate). At Geevor Iron also combined with sulphur to form pyrite, and with arsenic to form arsenopyrite and lollengite. The granite and killas rock at Geevor contained appreciable amounts of iron as silicates. During milling the iron minerals were concentrated with, and separated from, the cassiterite. The iron sulphides were removed by froth flotation and the iron oxides by magnetic separation.


Did you know?...There is enough iron in the average person to make a 2.5cm nail?


Data Panel: Iron ore: Hematite

Fe2O3 Iron oxide
Red to brown
Crystal system
Crystal habit
Sheet-like masses, kidney shapes or tablet shaped
Metallic, dull in earthy forms
Other characteristics


Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Geevor Archive

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