Difference Between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Minerals

Key Difference – Ferrous vs Non-Ferrous Minerals

There are thousands of naturally occurring minerals in the earth’s crust. They have various compositions and various applications. Ferrous and non-ferrous minerals are one of the simplest classifications of minerals based on the iron content. The key difference between ferrous and non-ferrous minerals is their composition; ferrous minerals contain iron whereas non-ferrous minerals do not contain iron. However, both of these minerals have unique and very important industrial applications. Examples of minerals containing iron are; Hematite (Fe2O3), Magnetite (Fe3O4), (FeCO3), Pyrite (FeS2), and Chalcopyrite (CuFeS2). Copper (Cu), silver (Ag), gold (Au) and Molybdenite (MoS2) are some examples for non-ferrous minerals.

What are Ferrous Minerals?

Ferrous minerals are the minerals having iron (Fe) as an element in the composition. Some minerals contain iron in larger proportions while some minerals contain iron in very smaller quantities. Therefore, they are used as the sources of different elements. For example; Copper-iron sulphide (CuFeS2) is the most widespread copper mineral, Sphalerite (ZnFeS) is a source of zinc and Hematite (Fe2O3) is a source of iron. These minerals can be found in different parts of the world; some of them are very rare, and some are abundant in any Part of the world.

Difference Between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Minerals


What are Non-Ferrous Minerals?

Non-ferrous minerals are the minerals that do not contain iron (Fe), and they contain other elements in different proportions, except ferrous. Non-ferrous minerals are a diverse category having a large number of varieties in the composition, occurrence and usage. Examples of non-ferrous minerals are gold (Au), silver (Ag), copper (Cu) and lead (Pb). They exist as both pure from and with other minerals as compounds. These minerals are the sources of various minerals for industrial applications.

Key Difference - Ferrous vs Non-Ferrous Minerals


What is the difference between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Minerals?

Composition of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Minerals:

Ferrous Minerals: Ferrous minerals are in the category of metallic minerals; all these minerals contain iron (Fe). The composition of iron varies from mineral to mineral.

Non-ferrous Minerals: Non-ferrous minerals are the metallic minerals that do not contain iron (Fe). They contain one or more other elements except iron.

Examples of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Minerals:

Ferrous Minerals:

Hematite: Fe2O3 (Iron Oxide)

Hematite is one of the most important iron ores, and it has several varieties; hematite rose, tiger iron, kidney ore, oolitic hematite and specularite. The powdered form of hematite is red in color and it is used as a pigment.

Magnetite: Fe3O4 (Iron Oxide)

Magnetite is a black colored crystal with natural magnetic properties.

Arsenopyrite: FeAsS (Iron Arsenide Sulfide)

It is a major source of Arsenic.

Siderite: FeCO3 (Iron Carbonate)

Siderite is a Greek word for iron.

Pyrite: FeS2 (Iron Sulphide)

It is a yellow coloured mineral with a cubic structure with striated surfaces. Some people mistake this as gold for its color. Hence, it’s also known as “Fool’s Gold”. This can be found in any environment.

Chalcopyrite: CuFeS2 (copper-iron sulphide)

This is the most abundant copper mineral. This mineral is present in other minerals such as sphalerite, galena, cassiterite and pyrite.

 Non-ferrous Minerals:

Native Copper: (Cu)

Native copper is referred to naturally occurring elemental form of copper. Copper was one of the metals that were first used by the man. It is widely used in the modern society in so many industrial applications. In is naturally found in with basic extrusive igneous rocks.


Gold is generally found in pure form because it rarely forms compounds with other elements. It is mostly found in quartz veins associated with pyrites and other sulphides. It is difficult to distinguish gold from visual observations; it is detected using chemical analysis.

Molybdenite: (MoS2)

The commonly used name for Molybdenite is “Moly”; it is the most common source of molybdenum mineral.


Image Courtesy:

1. “Pyrite elbe” by Didier Descouens – Own work. [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Commons

2. Gold-cat10x By Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons