McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams

Home » Minerals » Monazite


A rare phosphate mineral mined from placer deposits for its rare earth and thorium content.

What is Monazite?

Monazite is a rare phosphate mineral with a chemical composition of (Ce,La,Nd,Th)(PO4,SiO4). It usually occurs in small isolated grains, as an accessory mineral in igneous and metamorphic rocks such as granite, pegmatite, schist and gneiss. These grains are resistant to weathering and become concentrated in soils and sediments downslope from the host rock. When in high enough concentrations they are mined for their rare earth and thorium content.

A Mineral or a Mineral Group?

The generic chemical formula for monazite, (Ce,La,Nd,Th)(PO4,SiO4), reveals that cerium, lanthanum, neodymium and thorium can substitute for one another in the mineral’s structure; and, substitution of silica for phosphate also occurs. Monazite is part of several solid-solution series with other minerals.

"Monazite" is also the name of a group of monoclinic phosphate and arsenate minerals that share traits of composition and crystal structure. A list of minerals in the monazite group is provided below. Note that several varieties of monazite are included.

Monazite Mineral Group

Chemical Composition
Brabantite CaTh(PO4)2
Cheralite (Ca,Ce,Th)(P,Si)O4
Gasparite-(Ce) (Ce,La,Nd)AsO4
Monazite-(Ce) CePO4
Monazite-(La) LaPO4
Monazite-(Nd) NdPO4
Monazite-(Sm) SmPO4
Rooseveltite BiAsO4

Physical Properties of Monazite

Monazite is yellowish-brown to reddish-brown or greenish-brown mineral with a resinous to vitreous luster. It is translucent and rarely seen in large grains or as well-formed crystals. Granular masses are sometimes seen where monazite is locally abundant. It breaks with good to distinct cleavage. Its hardness ranges from 5 to 5 . It has an unusually high specific gravity that ranges from 4.6 to 5.4 depending upon its composition.

Physical Properties of Monazite

Chemical Classification phosphate
Color yellowish to reddish brown, greenish
Streak white
Luster resinous, waxy, vitreous
Diaphaneity translucent
Cleavage good to poor
Mohs Hardness 5 to 5.5
Specific Gravity 4.6 to 5.3 (varies greatly depending upon rare earth type and concentration)
Diagnostic Properties specific gravity
Chemical Composition (Ce,La,Nd,Th)PO4
Crystal System monoclinic
Uses An important source of thorium, cerium, and other rare elements. Often mined as a byproduct from heavy mineral deposits.

Geologic Occurrence of Monazite

Monazite is known more for where it accumulates instead of where it forms. It forms during the crystallization of igneous rocks and during the metamorphism of clastic sedimentary rocks. When these rocks weather monazite is one of the more resistant minerals and becomes concentrated in the weathering debris. The soils and sediments found near a weathering outcrop can have a higher concentration of monazite than the source rock.

The liberated grains of monazite then begin a journey downslope. Eventually they are brought to a stream or a dry wash. There the actions of gravity and running water help the heavy grains of monazite and other heavy minerals segregate from lighter minerals. They accumulate behind boulders, on the inside bends of stream channels and work their way down into the lower portions of the sediment deposit. Some are washed to the sea where they accumulate in deltaic, beach or shallow water sediments.

Monazite Mining

All monazite mining is focused on placer deposits because they are easier to mine and the monazite is often present in higher concentrations than in hard rock deposits. Other heavy minerals that accumulate with monazite include: gold, platinum, magnetite, ilmenite, rutile, zircon, and a variety of gemstones. The heavy sands recovered are processed to separate these heavy minerals and the light fraction is returned to the deposit. Stream sediments, alluvial terraces, beach sediments, beach terraces and shallow water sediments have all been dredged for heavy minerals.

Today, most of the world's monazite is produced in the offshore waters of India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brazil. Southern India and Sri Lanka have the most extensive offshore monazite resource known. Australia was once the world's largest producer of monazite and is thought to have the world's largest monazite resource. It has not been a significant producer since the 1990s after public objection shut down mining on Frasier Island.

Monazite is not currently mined in the United States. In the past it was mined from stream placer deposits in Idaho. These deposits formed from weathering of the Idaho batholith. Monazite has also been mined as a byproduct from offshore deposits along the southeast coast of the United States that span the coast from North Carolina to Florida. Inland and offshore deposits are known to exist in many states but they are small, low-grade deposits when compared to what is currently mined in other countries.

Find it on

More from

Methane Hydrate
Methane Hydrate deposits contain more fuel value than all other fossil fuels combined.
Blood Diamonds
Blood Diamonds are illegally-traded diamonds that are often used to fund conflict.
Photos of Geysers
Photos of Geysers from around the world with information about height, eruption interval, more.
Uses of granite
Uses of Granite: The rock used everywhere from the kitchen to the facing stone of skyscrapers.
Sand is a diverse material. This gallery includes photos of sand from around the world.
Abandoned Mine Accidents
Abandoned Mine Accidents take 20 to 30 lives per year. Many can be prevented with education.
Emerald is the most popular green gemstone in the United States and most of the world.
Download Google Earth Free
Free Google Earth software allows you to browse seamless world satellite images. Free.

Monazite sand
Monazite sand with a resinous luster from Malaysia. Monazite is produced from heavy-mineral concentrates and then separated out by specific gravity, magnetic and other processes. Specimens are sand-grain size particles.

Monazite crystal
An exceptionally large monazite crystal, approximately two inches across, collected in Brazil. Photo by Rob Lavinsky of Used here under a Creative Commons License.

Monazite and quartz crystals
Orange-pink twinned crystals of monazite-(Ce), about 5 millimeters in length, with quartz from Bolivia. Photo by Rob Lavinsky of Used here under a Creative Commons License.

Monazite sands at Frasier Island, Australia
Australia was once the world's largest producer of monazite and is thought to have the world's largest monazite resource. However, Australia has not produced significant quantities of monazite since public objection shut down mining at Frasier Island, Queensland.

More Minerals
  Mohs Hardness Scale
  Fluorescent Minerals
  Diamonds Do Not Form From Coal
  Mineral Identification Chart
  Minerals in Colored Glass
  The Acid Test

© 2005-2014 All Rights Reserved.
Images, code and content of this website are property of Use without permission is prohibited. Pages on this site are protected by Copyscape.