June 2015    Print this article

Silica: A mineral with many different uses 

N’Golo Togola, ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles

A year ago, the Spanish company FerroAtltantica, a giant in the production of ferrosilicon and silicon metal, announced that it would be building a plant at Port-Cartier, near Sept-Îles, which would be brought into activity in late 2016.

The new plant will work mainly in the area of electrometallurgy, and Québec’s exploration companies and prospectors are keen to identify sources of quality silicon in order to supply it. In addition, there has been an increase in the demand for sand in most glass production sectors since 2013, and a similar increase in the demand for foundry sand.

QuartzQuébec has many sources of silica, including quartz sandstone (orthoquartzite), quartzite, massive quartz veins associated with granite pegmatities, hydrothermal quartz veins and quartz sand deposits.

A number of exploration projects (French only) have already taken place in Québec, and several silica deposits have been identified as a result. Other projects are currently underway in Charlevoix, the Bas-Saint-Laurent, the Eastern Townships and Côte-Nord.

At the present time, there are approximately ten silica quarries (French only) )in Québec, located in the Laurentides, Montérégie, Charlevoix, Fermont and Témiscamingue.

Many different industrial uses

Because of its physical and chemical properties (chemical inertia, hardness, high melting point), silica is used in many different ways in a variety of industrial sectors. For example, it is a component in the production of glass, ferrosilicon, silicon metal, silicon carbide, fumed silica and a number of abrasive products and reflective bricks. It is also used in the chemical and high-technology industries. Silicon fragments (silicon pieces) are used in the production of mineral-bonded boards, which in turn are used to manufacture kitchen and bathroom cabinets and tiles.

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