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CategoryHalide mineral
Chemical formulaSodium chloride NaCl
Colorclear or white; also blue, purple, pink, yellow, and gray
Crystal habitpredominantly cubes and in massive sedimentary beds, but also granular, fibrous and compact
Crystal systemisometric 4/m bar 3 2/m
Cleavageperfect in three directions in cubes
Mohs Scale hardness2 - 2.5
Refractive index1.544
Specific gravity2.1
Densityvery tough
Solubilityin water
Other Characteristicssalty flavor

Halite is the mineral form of sodium chloride, NaCl, commonly known as rock salt. Halite forms isometric crystals. The mineral is typically colourless to yellow, but may also be light blue, dark blue, and pink. It commonly occurs with other evaporite deposit minerals such as several of the sulfates, halides and borates.


Halite occurs in vast lakes of sedimentary evaporite minerals that result from the drying up of enclosed beds, playas, and seas. Salt beds may be up to 405 m thick and underlie broad areas. In the United States and Canada extensive underground beds extend from the Appalachian basin of western New York through parts of Ontario and under much of the Michigan basin. Other deposits are in Ohio, Kansas, New Mexico, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan.

Salt domes are vertical diapirs or pipe-like masses of salt that have been essentially "squeezed up" from underlying salt beds by mobilization due to the weight of overlying rock. Salt domes contain anhydrite, gypsum, and native sulfur, in addition to halite and sylvite. They are common along the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana and are often associated with petroleum deposits. Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Romania, and Iran also have salt domes. Salt glaciers exist in arid Iran where the salt has broken through the surface at high elevation and flows downhill. In all of these cases, halite is said to be behaving in the manner of a rheid.



Unusual, purple, fibrous vein filling halite is found in France and a few other localities. Halite crystals termed hopper crystals appear to be "skeletons" of the typical cubes, with the edges present and stairstep depressions on, or rather in, each crystal face. In a rapidly crystallizing environment the edges of the cubes simply grow faster than the centers. Halite crystals form very quickly in some rapidly evaporating lakes resulting in modern artefacts with a coating or encrustation of halite crystals. Halite flowers are rare stalactites of curling fibers of halite that are found in certain arid caves of Australia's Nullarbor Plain. Halite stalactites and encrustations are also reported in the Quincy native copper mine of Hancock, Michigan.

Halite is often used both residentially and municipally for managing ice. Because saline(a solution of water and salt) has a lower freezing point than ordinary water, putting salt on ice will cause it to melt. It is common for homeowners in cold climates to spread 'rock salt' on their walkways and sometimes driveways after a snow storm to melt the ice. It is not necessary to use so much salt that the ice is completely melted; rather, a small amount of salt will weaken the ice so that it can be easily removed with other means. Also, many cities will spread a mixture of sand and salt on roads during and after a snowstorm to improve traction.

Rock salt is also used to make ice cream. It is not actually used in the ice cream mixture; rather, it is used to melt the ice surrounding the can holding the ice cream, causing the ice to melt at a lower temperature, thus lowering the temperature of the ice bath and making the freezing process take less time.

See also


  • Hurlbut, Cornelius S.; Klein, Cornelis, 1985, Manual of Mineralogy, 20th ed., John Wiley and Sons, New York ISBN 0-471-80580-7
  • Mineral Galleries
  • WebMineral
  • Desert USA
  • Halite stalactites
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Halite". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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