Determination of iron sulphides in roofing slates from the north west of Spain
Keywords:pyrite, pyrrhotite, slate, oxidation, electron microprobe
The most important production of roofing slates in the world is quarried from the Ordovician formations of the Truchas Syncline, which have the largest amount of working quarries. Roofing slates, sometimes, have crystallized iron sulphides such as pyrite, pyrrhotite and other minerals. These iron sulphides oxidise and stain the tiles when are exposed to atmospheric conditions, so much oxidized how much more inclined is the roof. Galician quarrymen distinguish between harmless pyrite (i.e., resistant cubes of pyrite) and damaging pyrite (i.e., other alterable metallic minerals such as pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, marcasite and arsenopyirite). An improved identification method is proposed using both methods (a) chemical element ratios of samples under electron microprobes and (b) quantitative determination of the iron sulphides in the slate measuring the oxidized areas by digital camera. The analysed Fe/S ratios, in an XY plot, of seventy metallic samples, define three separated zones: pyrite, pyrrhotite and iron oxi-hydroxides. Quantitative determination of iron sulphides in the slate tile were performed by sinking the tile horizontally for six hours in oxygen peroxide (3% diluted) and capturing the oxidation areas with a magnetic camera and analysing the bitmap images with Sigma-Scan 5 software. The proposed method is faster than the Spanish UNE norm (UNE-EN- 12326-2 Sept.2000), which requires thermal strike cycles for a month. The necessary use of heavy analytical equipment such as electron microprobes can be facilitated by installing it in the Slate Technological Centre of Sobradelo de Valdeorras (Orense) or by using a simple optical stereoscopic zoom microscope to classify the iron minerals.
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