How to Extract Magnetite

Written by amy meadows
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How to Extract Magnetite
Iron-rich sandstone often contain magnetite. (Sandstone Audience image by dknowswd from

Magnetite is a form of iron ore and is a common component of igneous and metamorphic rocks. It can also be found in sedimentary rocks in banded iron formations. Of all the naturally-occurring minerals, magnetite is the most magnetic. Easy to recognise, this magnetic mineral is fairly-dense and appears black in colour or grey with a brownish tint. River and beach sands can contain large amounts of magnetite and are often dredged and processed to separate the mineral. Magnetite is used to make such products as steel, paints, fertiliser, toner and concrete.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Geological survey map
  • Mining permit
  • Magnetometer, metal detector or compass
  • Rock hammer

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  1. 1

    Locate places where magnetite might be found by reviewing geological survey maps for spots you'd like to mine.

  2. 2

    Search for rocks that are often found with magnetite. These include diabase, gabbro, gneiss, quartzite and sandstone.

  3. 3

    Obtain the proper mining permits and licenses by contacting your local government to inquire about existing mining requirements.

  4. 4

    Search the area you wish to mine with a magnetometer to determine the orientation, shape and depth of the magnetic deposit.

  5. 5

    Move the magnetometer probe in a straight line slowly over the area to record the reading. Move the instrument closer and the magnetic field reading increases in strength. Hold the probe in place until the reading stabilises.

  6. 6

    Walk along the area with a compass or metal detector if you do not have a magnetometer. Watch the compass needle deflect to indicate that you're walking over mineralised rocks. A metal detector can detect them as well.

  7. 7

    Remove the soil and rock above the mineral deposit with a shovel and extract the magnetite with a pointed-tip rock hammer. Crack open the rock deposit with the square head of the rock hammer and dig the mineral samples out of the hard rock with the pointed tip.

  8. 8

    Extract the magnetite from river and beach sand by using a large magnet to pull magnetite particles from the sand. Run a smaller magnet over the pile to remove any remaining sand and debris. Repeat until the magnetite is free of residue.

Tips and warnings

  • Take along a means to carry or transport the magnetite and don't be surprised by how heavy it might be.
  • Magnetite is also used to make industrial magnets, cosmetics, paper, ink, electronic parts and jewellery.

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