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Kathy Feick

The name Baryte comes from the Greek word “Barys,” meaning heavy. In fact, an alternate name for baryte is “heavy spar”. It has an unusually high specific gravity for a non-metallic mineral.

white and yellow baryte mounted on wood

Baryte. Cole Co. Wis. University of Waterloo Earth Sciences Museum Collection.

Baryte is chemically inert and insoluble, but is soft with a hardness of only 3-3.5 on Moh’s Hardness Scale. It can be found in almost any colour depending on the impurities trapped in the structure, though it is usually white or colourless. It commonly forms as large tabular crystals, as rosette-like aggregates, or as divergent plates known as crested baryte.

Environment of formation:

Most baryte is mined from layers of sedimentary rock which formed when baryte precipitated onto the bottom of the ocean floor. Some smaller mines utilize barite from veins, which formed when barium sulphate precipitated from hot subterranean waters. In some cases, baryte is a by-product of mining lead, zinc, silver or other metal ores, especially in hydrothermal veins.

green baryte mounted on wood

Baryte Fluorite. Blanchard Mine N.M. University of Waterloo Earth Sciences Museum Collection.

Health concerns:

Although barite contains the heavy metal barium, it does not have an effect on human health. Barium is not radioactive, is extremely insoluble, and cannot be easily absorbed by the human body.


  • Drilling fluids consume some 85% of the world’s total barite consumption
  • As an ore of elemental barium
  • Middle and high grade paint
  • Engineering plastic
  • Medicine compounding chemicals
  • Rubber
  • Paper-making
  • Pottery
  • Cosmetics
  • Deoxidizer for copper
  • Baryte’s high density makes it opaque to X-rays. If it is given to a patient as a drink or enema it can be used to image the shape of internal organs by X-ray
round piece of aggregate baryte with many slaty crystals

Baryte. Marmoraton Mine, Marmora, Ontario. University of Waterloo Earth Sciences Museum Collection.


Baryte deposits are known worldwide, but many are uneconomical. It is mined in about 20 countries worldwide; with China as the largest producer.