The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
Cinnabar from Wanshan mine, Tongren Pref., Guizhou province, China. credit: Dakota Matrix Minerals

Precious minerals make the modern world go 'round—they're used in everything from circuit boards to tableware. They're also some of the most toxic materials known to science, and excavating them has proved so dangerous over the years, some have been phased out of industrial production altogether. Listed below are the 10 most deadly minerals on earth. These rocks do not need to be thrown to hurt you!!

Chalcanthite - CuSO4·5H2O

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
Natural Chalcanthite from Planet Mine, Buckskin Mts, La Paz Co., Arizona, USA
Photo: Tony Peterson

Chalcanthite is a hydrated water-soluble copper sulfate. The mineral is used to ore copper, however it's necessary to keep the environment dry as the mineral can easily dissolve and recrystallize in a wet environment. It is water soluble and will crystallise out again from solution. The copper in this mineral is very bio-available and is toxic to plants and in high quantities toxic to humans.

 Stibnite - Sb2S3

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
 Stibnite and Calcite From Herja Mine, Chiuzbaia (Kisbanya), Baia Mare, Maramures Co., Romania.
Photo: Quebul Fine Minerals

Stibnite is a toxic antimony sulfide mineral with an orthorhombic crystal lattice and a source of metalloid antimony. Stibnite paste has been used for thousands of years for cosmetics to darken eyebrows and lashes. The mineral was also used to make eating utensils, causing poisoning from antimony ingestion.

Asbestos - Mg3Si2O5(OH)4

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals

You have likely heard of the mineral asbestos and associate it with lung cancer. Asbestos is not one mineral but six defined separate minerals. Unlike the other minerals in the top 10 deadliest. This silicate mineral grows thin fibers crystals that can easily break off and form dust particles. And it was once widely used for a variety of commercial and industrial applications thanks to its strong, fire-resistant, and flexible nature—from ceiling tiles and roofing materials to flooring and thermal insulation. The fibers can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. 222

Torbernite - Cu(UO2)2(PO4)2·8 - 12 H2O

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
Torbernite from Musonoi Mine, Congo

Torbernite is a dangerous mineral composed of hydrated green copper, phosphate, and uranyl. The mineral is often found in granites that contain uranium and is dangerous due to its radioactive nature. The mineral releases radon naturally and can cause lung cancer if exposure is long enough. This is one mineral you do not want on your display cabinet shelf.

Cinnabar - HgS

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
Cinnabar from Wanshan mine, China. credit: Dakota Matrix Minerals
Cinnabar is a deep red mercury sulphide mineral that provides much of the world's elemental mercury. when oxidized, this element will produce methyl mercury and dimethyl mercury, two toxic compounds that cause irreparable harm to the nervous systems of children. It is deadly in small concentrations and can be absorbed through the respiratory tract, intestines, or skin.

Galena - PbS

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
Galena From Denton Mine, Hardin Co., Illinois, United States.
Photo: Dakota Matrix Minerals

Galena is one of the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide minerals. Galena is the principle ore of lead, and forms glistening silver cubes with almost unnaturally perfect shapes. Although lead is normally extremely flexible, the sulfur content of galena makes it extraordinarily brittle and reactive to chemical treatment. It's not as bad as mercury, which will kill you immediately outright, but lead doesn't get flushed out of your system. It accumulates over the years, eventually reaching toxic levels. Once that happens both you and your kids pay the price, as lead toxicity is carcinogenic to you and is teratogenic (causing severe birth defects) to your offspring.

Hutchinsonite - (Tl,Pb)2As5S9

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
Hutchinsonite from Quiruvilca Mine, Peru
Photo: Dakota Matrix Minerals

Hutchinsonite is a form of arsenic sulfide with thallium and lead that can be found in hydrothermal vents. Thallium salts are nearly tasteless and highly toxic and have been used in rat poison and insecticides. The thallium inclusion in this arsenic sulfide combines two extremely dangerous and deadly minerals. Exposure to this mineral can potentially lead to death.

Orpiment - As2S3

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
Orpiment from Twin Creeks mine, Humboldt Co., Nevada
Photo: Dakota Matrix Minerals
Orpiment is another arsenic sulfide mineral with a stunning orange-yellow color. The mineral is found naturally in hydrothermal vents, hot springs, and fumaroles. Strangely, this mineral was once used medicinally in China despite its toxicity and in alchemy in search for a way to create gold. The arsenic, especially if it is allowed to oxidize, will lead to arsenic poisoning if handled incorrectly.

Riebeckite - Na2(Fe2+3Fe3+2)Si8O22(OH)2

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
Blue Asbestos (Crocidolite). Credit: Flickr/Asbestorama.
The finely fibrous variety, known as Crocidolite, usually originates from altered metamorphic rocks.  It was once widely used for a variety of commercial and industrial applications thanks to its strong, fire-resistant, and flexible nature—from ceiling tiles and roofing materials to flooring and thermal insulation. The fibers can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Arsenopyrite - FeAsS

The World's 10 Most Deadly Minerals
Arsenopyrite. Photo: Crystal Classics

Arsenopyrite is an iron arsenic sulfide with a brilliant steel metallic color often found in hydrothermal vents and pegmatites. The arsenic leads to a number of environmental and human damages and can sometimes be associated with gold deposits. Oxidation of arsenopyrite leads to soluble arsenic in water and subsequent acid mine drainage.

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Post a Comment

brantly said... November 8, 2015 at 8:24 PM

"It's not as bad as mercury, which will kill you immediately outright,"

From wiki.
"Quicksilver (liquid metallic mercury) is poorly absorbed by ingestion and skin contact. Its vapor is the most hazardous form. Animal data indicate less than 0.01% of ingested mercury is absorbed through the intact gastrointestinal tract, though it may not be true for individuals suffering from ileus. Cases of systemic toxicity from accidental swallowing are rare, and attempted suicide via intravenous injection does not appear to result in systemic toxicity.

Dimethyl Mercury will kiil you in 8 months from a few drops... Its not found in nature...

Unknown said... March 8, 2016 at 7:23 AM

Had no idea about that with phenacite.

Jenny Isle said... July 20, 2016 at 11:11 AM

Can you please elaborate on how a mineral like Phenacite can instigate a bacterial infection like tuberculosis?

Debbie Shepley said... November 17, 2016 at 8:54 PM

I have 2 of these, Stibnite and Chalcanthite, but my specimen of Chalcanthite is natural mined, not lab grown. Is it still as dangerous? I gave some to my grandson, too!!

Kathi Keinstein said... November 18, 2016 at 11:23 AM

Natural mined and lab grown Chalcanthite consist of the same chemical (although natural Chalcantite mighte be less pure than lab grown specimen).

The problem of Chalcantite is its high solubility in water, which allows its copper ions to be released very easily. That means: Don't eat it, clean your hands after touching the crystals intensively, and don't release Chalcantite or its solutions into the environment.

If you follow these safety instructions, the specimen aren't dangerous at all. Even if you swallow Chalcanthite or its solution, it causes severe vomiting. So your body gets rid of it to avoid a deadly intoxication. How old is your grandson? Does he understand instructions like these?

And it's the same with stibnite: Don't use it as a fork or similar. As long as it is kept safely on a shelf or in a display case, it isn't dangerous (by the way: when I studied chemistry, they handed antimony compounds like this over to us for lab work, because similar arsenic compounds were "too dangerous for beginner students" - and arsenic compounds like Orpiment (arsenic sulfide) are missing in this list ;)).

I keep Orpiment (in a transparent plastic box, so I rarely need to touch it), Stibnite, Galena and some other nearly-non-soluble lead compounds in my own showcase, and as long as I don't destroy the latter chemically to release the lead, the lead ores aren't dangerous, too.

Debbie Shepley said... November 23, 2016 at 7:14 PM

Kathi, Thank You so much for the information! I knew about not getting the Chalcanthite wet, but not about having to wash your hands after handling. I will let my grandson know, he is 12 so yes, he'll understand. All my specimens are in a glass case, and I just got him a glass and wood display case. He already had a plastic lidded case with divided sections.
Are there any other toxic minerals I should be aware of handling carefully? They don't tell you these things when you buy them!
Thanks again!

destravlr said... January 7, 2017 at 5:15 AM

This post is an unfortunate piece of scare writing just for effect or attention. This is not science; it is the misuse of partial information about hazard that may exist. The reader is not provided the caution that more information is needed to accurately judge whether or not a mineral specimen may harm them. This writeup makes me question the quality of the entire site.

Cheryl Rotole said... February 22, 2017 at 3:52 AM

Debbie Shepley ...
along with Galena; orpiment, wulfenite, Cerussite and Vanadinite are lead minerals.
Orpiment and Realgar are arsenic minerals
oh and Betaphites have uranium ore so they may be radioactive (so check before you keep in your common area or store in a "special box"
thats all i can think of for now. I'm sure there's others.

Carolina said... March 1, 2017 at 11:35 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anne said... April 25, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Beryllium disease only occurs in some people who work closely with Beryllium and they have to be sensitized, as an allergy. It is an awful disease but safety procedures in industries working with Beryllium are now widely used. Many gemstones are forms of Beryllium, like emeralds, aquamarine, beryls, cat's eye, alexandrite. Most of these minerals are safe in crystal form. It is the processing phase that is the most dangerous.

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