Cassiterite is a tin oxide mineral, SnO2. It is generally opaque, but it is translucent in thin crystals. Its luster and multiple crystal faces produce a desirable gem. Cassiterite has been the chief tin ore throughout ancient history and remains the most important source of tin today.
Most sources of cassiterite today are found in alluvial or placer deposits containing the resistant weathered grains. The best sources of primary cassiterite are found in the tin mines of Bolivia, where it is found in hydrothermal veins. Rwanda has a nascent cassiterite mining industry. Fighting over cassiterite deposits (particularly in Walikale) is a major cause of the conflict waged in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This has led to cassiterite being considered a conflict mineral.
Cassiterite is a widespread minor constituent of igneous rocks. The Bolivian veins and the old exhausted workings of Cornwall, England, are concentrated in high temperature quartz veins and pegmatites associated with granitic intrusives. The veins commonly contain tourmaline, topaz, fluorite, apatite, wolframite, molybdenite, and arsenopyrite.
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