A deeper dive into Bentonite

(1) Minerology of bentonite – Bentonite is a type of clay called the “mineral of a thousand uses”. Bentonite consists mostly of one or more members of the smectite-group (formerly the montmorillonite-group) minerals.

(2) 3 variants of bentonite –

– Swelling bentonite (aka sodium bentonite) swells in the presence of water and is usually used in its natural state.
– Non-swelling bentonite (aka calcium bentonite) is typically treated before using
– Lithium rich “hectorite” which is commercially mined only in the US

(3) Properties of bentonite –

Bentonite has a very high surface area, and it is valued for its ability to bond, swell, seal, and its rheology features. ¬†Chemical properties – bentonite has the ability for “cation exchange” which means that bentonite is very good at purifying and absorbing unwanted chemicals and toxins.

Bentonite Uses Graph courtesy of USGS
Bentonite Uses Graph courtesy of USGS

(4) Uses of bentonite

There are many uses of bentonite, and multiple markets to sell bentonite into. These industries and products include:

– Absorbents for pet waste (ie kitty litter)
– Adhesives
– Animal feed
– Drilling mud (ie drilling grade bentonite, tested in accordance with American Petroleum Institute standards)
– Filtering, clarifying, decolorizing of oils ( ie : Animal, mineral, and vegetable oils and greases)
– Foundry sand
– Pelletizing of iron ore (these pellets are the raw material for foundries, and bentonite is used as a binding agent during the pelletizing process)
– Waterproofing and sealing
– Miscellaneous uses which includes miscellaneous absorbents, ceramics, refractory sales, and filler and extender applications

bentonite-mining-and-uses-global-energy-labs-picture(5) Bentonite mines in the US

There are just a handful of bentonite producers in the US, and they produce nearly all the bentonite from the Wyoming area:

1 – Minerals Technologies Inc, (MTI) which is the world’s largest producer of bentonite, with mines and plants at Colony and Lovell, Wyoming
2 – Bentonite Performance Minerals (now a subsidiary of Halliburton), also in Colony and Lovell, Wyoming, with a corporate office in Houston, Texas
3 – Black Hills Bentonite, with at least 5 Wyoming locations
4 – Wyo-Ben, with corporate office Billings, Montana, and 3 plants in Wyoming

(6) Bentonite pricing (mostly 2013 pricing)

Here are some estimate of what bentonite sold for in 2013:
– Swelling bentonite – average price for US – $65/ton
– Non-swelling bentonite – average price for US – $75/ton
– Bentonite for iron ore pelletizing – $73-$79/ton
– Foundry grade bentonite, bagged and shipped in railcars – $107-$137/ton
– Pet waste absorbent grade bentonite – $55-$66/ton
– API drilling grade bentonite (2013 prices, keep in mind) – $99-$143/ton

(7) Bentonite testing

If you would like a bentonite sample tested to find out what its qualities are and what markets you might be able to sell it in, we can put together a customized testing package for you, according to what your budget is — go here.