Overview of the mineralogy of the Biwabik Iron Formation, Mesabi Iron Range, northern Minnesota

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2008 Oct;52(1 Suppl):S11-25. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2007.09.010. Epub 2007 Oct 1.


The mineralogy of the Biwabik Iron Formation changes dramatically from west to east as the formation nears the basal contact of the Duluth Complex. This reflects a contact metamorphism that took place with the emplacement of the igneous Duluth Complex at temperatures as high as 1200 degrees C. However, the mineralogy of the Biwabik Iron Formation also varies vertically through the stratigraphy of the unit. This variability in both the vertical and horizontal dimensions makes it difficult to predict exact horizons where specific minerals will occur. The iron-formation has been subdivided into four broad stratigraphic units (lower cherty, lower slaty, upper cherty, and upper slaty) and into four lateral mineralogical zones (1-4). Zone 1, the westernmost zone, is characterized by quartz, magnetite, hematite, carbonates, talc, chamosite, greenalite, minnesotaite, and stilpnomelane. The silicate mineralogy in Zone 2 of the Biwabik Iron Formation changes very little. However, the minerals begin to change dramatically in Zone 3. Most significantly, Zone 3 is characterized by the appearance of grunerite in both a tabular form and a fibrous form. In Zone 4, the original silicate minerals have completely reacted, and a new suite of minerals occupies the iron-formation. These include grunerite, hornblende, hedenbergite, ferrohypersthene (ferrosilite), and fayalite.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Geological Phenomena*
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Mineral Fibers
  • Minerals*
  • Mining*
  • Minnesota
  • Silicates / chemistry


  • Mineral Fibers
  • Minerals
  • Silicates
  • Iron