Abstract

Commercial bentonite from the Kopernica deposit, Slovakia, is currently mined by the CERTECH Company, Poland, to produce materials intended for animal-care applications and other industrial purposes. The present study aimed to assess the mineralogical, petrographic and physico-chemical characteristics of three bentonite varieties from Kopernica used by the company. The X-ray diffraction, optical microscopy, field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), nuclear magnetic resonance, thermal analysis, infrared spectroscopy and chemical analyses showed that the main component of the rocks is montmorillonite with the average structural formula Ca0.31K0.08Na0.04(Al3.23Mg0.54Fe0.23)[(Si7.80Al0.20)O20](OH)4. In addition, opal-C/CT, biotite, potassium feldspar and plagioclase, quartz, clinoptilolite and kaolinite are present. Key information about the textural relationships between the mineral components identified was obtained from detailed thin-section petrography and FESEM studies. The rocks studied have fragmented, eutaxitic texture. They are composed of pumice fragments collapsed into lenticular masses (fiamme) which were strongly deformed and altered, though the shard structures were retained. The compressed glass shards were moulded around pyroclastic grains such as crystal fragments of quartz, biotite and zoned plagioclases, and clasts of volcanic rocks. Observations by FESEM showed that the axes of shards and the walls of the flattened vacuoles are outlined by the inward-growing microlites of silica (axiolitic texture), whilst the interiors of shards are altered to clay. Grain-size distribution, textural properties and microscope observations of grain-size fractions reveal that the Kopernica bentonite contains montmorillonite-opal aggregates difficult to disperse in water.

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