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Chemical formula((Ni,Co,Cu)Se2)
Colorgray-steel; also see Varieties
Crystal systemisometric class 2/m3*
Mohs Scale hardness3 - lower in impure varieties
Specific gravity6.58-6.74

Penroseite Penroseite was first discovered in 1925 in a Bolivian rhyolite. It has a gray-steel colour and black streak with a hardness of 3. Until now, there is no specific composition but the most agreed one was (Ni,Co,Cu)Se2 for the mineral. It is an isometric mineral, 2/m3*, with undefined structure. It has a synonym called blockite, but penroseite is the official name for it. It can be used as an energy storage substance. It is named after Dr. Richard Penrose(1863-1931), an economic geology professor.



Penroseite is a rare mineral found in the Pacajake mines in Bolivia. It was discovered in 1925. It used to be found in fissure veins in the extrusive igneous rhyolite rock. It is considered as a member of the Pyrite subgroup in the Pyrite group from the perspective of its structure, with a cubic space group(Bayliss, 1989).

Penroseite makes extensive solid solutions with other minerals. For example, penroseite can be a result of alteration process of many selenides, such as olsacherite Pb2(SO4)(SeO4). Olsacherite forms very sparingly in well formed crystal covering the walls of the external side of the small cracks(Hurlbut, 1969). Another mineral that have relation to penroseite is piretite. It outcomes from the alteration process of uraninite and primary selenium-bearing sulphides, such as penroseite. Piretite forms as crusts in association with an orange masuyite-like U-Pb oxide on the surface of uraninite samples(Vochten, 1996).


Its composition have mixture of elements, some of them are primary elements such as nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), cobalt (Co), and selenium (Se) that make with each other a substitution in different amounts. The secondary elements, that might be found in penroseite due to the occurrence process or the environment in which the mineral was deposited, are silver (Ag), mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb)(Gordon, 1926). Lead, that was considered as a part of the composition when it was discovered, found to be in the composition due to the intergrowth of clausthalite PbSe and is not a primary element(Earley, 1950). Penroseite has a high content of selenium like no mineral else, and as a result it was reported as the first nickel selenide mineral discovered (Gordon, 1926).

Physical properties

Penroseite is a massive mineral. It can have radiating, columnar, or granular structure(Gordon, 1926). It shows a dull lead-gray to steel-gray color with a black streak. It has a metallic luster and thought to have a weak chemical bonding and that what makes it with a low hardness around 3(Earley, 1950). When it reacts with HNO3 or KCN, a fumes tarnish to brown are resulted. But if it reacts with HCl, FeCl3, or HgCl2, it doesn’t show any activity(Gordon, 1926).

Geologic occurence

The ore is found in the Pacajake mine in Colquechaca, 150 km southeast of Oruro, Bolivia. Penroseite comes from the vicinity, and forms in fissure veins in the Rhyolite and it is not found in-situ, in float instead. The ore is a bit float from undiscovered vein, which give uncertainty of the place that it has originally formed(Gordon, 1926).


Penroseite has a cubic space group Pa3(Bayliss, 1989). It was found that it behaves like isotropic crystals in which light pass throw all directions with the same speed, which is strong enough to conclude that it is isometric(Bannister, 1937).Since it is isometric, all axes equal the same value. This value, due to different measurement techniques, ranges between 6.001 and 6.017 angstrom(Earley, 1950).Since there is no brief description on penroseite’s structure, it almost have the same Pyrite subgroup structure(Earley, 1950). The type of bonds found in the Pyrite group is covalent, but not in penroseite. For example, pyrite FeS2, which have the same structure as penroseite and thought to have similar coordination, has Fe atom surrounded by six atoms of S, octahedral coordination. On the other hand, S atom is surrounded by 4 Fe atoms in a tetrahedral configuration(Jaffe, 1988). This might give an idea of how the atoms arranged in the penroseite in the absence of a real structure determination due to the undefined composition of the mineral.


  • Bannister, F. (1937) The identity of penroseite and Blockite. The American Mineralogist. 22, 319-324.
  • Bayliss, P. (1989) Crystal chemistry and crystallography of some minerals within the pyrite group. The American Mineralogist. 74, 1168-1176.
  • Earley, J. (1950) Description and synthesis of the selenide minerals. The American Mineralogist. 35, 360-362.
  • Gordon, S. (1926) Penroseite and Trudellite: two new minerals. Proceedings Of The Academy Of Natural Sciences Of Philadelphia. 77, 317-324.
  • Hurlbut, G. (1969) Olsacherite Pb(SO4)(SeO4), a new mineral from Bolivia. The American Mineralogist. 54, 1519-1527.
  • Jaffe, H. (1988) Crystal Chemistry And Refractivity. 36-38.
  • Stanly-Brown, J. (1932) Memorial of Richard Alexander Fullerton Penrose. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America. 43, 68-104.
  • Vochten, R., Blaton, N., Peeters, O., Deliens, M. (1996) Piretite, Ca(UO2)3(SeO3)2(OH)4.4H2O, a new calcium uranyl selenite from Shinkolobwe, Shaba, Zaire. Canadian Mineralogist. 34, 1317-1322.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Penroseite". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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