Govt yet to tap sleeping deposits of Cinnabar

ISLAMABAD: Cinnabar – a bright scarlet to brick-red form of toxic mercury sulfide – is an important industrial mineral found in sizeable quantities in Pakistan awaiting proper mining and processing, says Yaqoob Shah, former general manager of the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) while talking to media.
Yaqoob, who is also the principal geologist at the Global Mining Company Limited, Islamabad, said mercury sulfide was the main ore of mercury in combination with sulphur.
“It is called red mercury sulfide, vermilion, Zhu Sha, and is commonly found with stibnite, pyrite, and marcasite or in hot spring deposits or in veins near the recent volcanic rocks. It can be decomposed into elemental mercury and sulfur.”
Yaqoob Shah emphasized proper exploration and quantification of cinnabar traces in Pakistan. Recalling his memories, he said the Government of Pakistan conducted a mineral exploration program from 1992 through 2001 in collaboration with the Australian government to know about all mineral sources found in Gilgit-Baltistan (G.B.), especially in Chitral.
“During this exploration program, traces of cinnabar were clearly detected in many samples, but it was never quantified separately. This is the main reason that the true potential of this important mineral could never be defined, but G.B. and Chitral are its targeted areas. If formal exploration on scientific lines is carried out, it is expected that Pakistan can find another precious mineral in the form of cinnabar to extract important industrial elements,” said Yaqoob, who is also an active member of the National Council for Marble & Granite and minerals.
Talking to WealthPK, geologist and miner Imran Babar said, “Cinnabar is the most common ore to get elemental mercury, and sulfur. It was also considered an ancient source of scarlet pigment ‘vermilion’. Though no large-scale mining is carried out at the government scale, it is mined to some extent at the private level. It has a hardness between 2.0 and 2.5 with a specific gravity of app 8.1.
Mostly, it is found in volcanic cracks. Cinnabar available in Pakistan is enough in both quality and quantity not only to fulfill the local industrial needs but to cut short the import bill as well.”
Long before the common era, vermilion (deep brilliant red shade) was extracted from sulfur and mercury-rich cinnabar. –INP