Anhydrite is a mineral that belongs to the sulfate mineral group. Its name is derived from the Greek words “an” (without) and “hydros” (water), indicating its lack of water content. Anhydrite is composed of calcium sulfate (CaSO4) and is chemically very similar to another well-known sulfate mineral, gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O). The key difference between anhydrite and gypsum is their water content; anhydrite is an anhydrous, or waterless, form of calcium sulfate, while gypsum contains water molecules within its crystalline structure.

Chemical, Physical and Optical Properties of Anhydrite

Anhydrite, a calcium sulfate mineral with the chemical formula CaSO4, possesses a range of chemical, physical, and optical properties. Here are some key characteristics:

Chemical Properties:

  1. Chemical Formula: CaSO4 – Anhydrite consists of calcium (Ca), sulfur (S), and oxygen (O) atoms.
  2. Water Content: Anhydrite is an anhydrous mineral, meaning it contains no water molecules within its crystal structure. This is in contrast to gypsum, which contains two water molecules (CaSO4·2H2O).
  3. Solubility: Anhydrite is sparingly soluble in water, which means it dissolves only to a limited extent in liquid water. It does not readily dissolve and hydrate like gypsum.

Physical Properties:

  1. Crystal Structure: Anhydrite typically crystallizes in the orthorhombic crystal system. It forms tabular, prismatic, or bladed crystals. It can also appear in massive, granular, or fibrous aggregates.
  2. Color: Anhydrite is usually colorless or white, but it can exhibit shades of blue, gray, or brown, depending on impurities present in the mineral.
  3. Streak: Its streak, the color of the powdered mineral when scraped on a streak plate, is white.
  4. Hardness: Anhydrite has a hardness of about 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale, making it relatively soft compared to many other minerals.
  5. Cleavage: Anhydrite exhibits good cleavage in three directions at right angles to each other. This cleavage can be observed when the mineral is broken or cut.
  6. Luster: The luster of anhydrite is typically vitreous (glassy) to pearly, depending on the specific crystal form and surface quality.
  7. Density: The density of anhydrite varies, but it generally falls in the range of 2.8 to 3.0 grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm³).

Optical Properties:

  1. Transparency: Anhydrite is typically transparent to translucent, allowing some light to pass through, but it can also appear opaque in massive forms.
  2. Refractive Index: The refractive index of anhydrite varies, but it usually falls within the range of 1.57 to 1.62, depending on factors like impurities and crystal quality.
  3. Birefringence: Anhydrite is typically birefringent, meaning it can split light into two different rays as it passes through the crystal. This property can be observed under a polarizing microscope.

In summary, anhydrite is an anhydrous calcium sulfate mineral with distinctive chemical, physical, and optical properties. Its lack of water content, cleavage, hardness, and crystal structure differentiate it from other minerals like gypsum, which contains water molecules in its structure and has different physical and chemical characteristics.

Occurrence and Formation

Anhydrite is a mineral that commonly occurs in sedimentary environments, often alongside other evaporite minerals like halite (rock salt) and gypsum. Its formation is closely tied to the geological and environmental conditions of these settings. Here’s an overview of the occurrence and formation of anhydrite:


  1. Sedimentary Basins: Anhydrite is most commonly found in sedimentary basins, especially those that have experienced periods of evaporation in the past. These basins can be found in various parts of the world and can range from ancient to relatively recent geological formations.
  2. Associated Minerals: Anhydrite is often found in association with other evaporite minerals, including gypsum, halite (rock salt), and various carbonate minerals. These minerals typically form in the same geological settings due to similar environmental conditions.
  3. Depositional Environments: Anhydrite can be found in a range of depositional environments within sedimentary basins, including:
    • Marine Environments: Anhydrite can form in shallow marine environments where seawater becomes concentrated due to evaporation. This concentration of dissolved ions, including calcium and sulfate, can lead to the precipitation of anhydrite.
    • Sabkhas: Sabkhas are coastal flats or salt flats located in arid regions. Anhydrite can form in sabkhas when briny water evaporates, leaving behind anhydrite deposits along with other evaporite minerals.
    • Lacustrine (Lake) Environments: In ancient lake settings, anhydrite can form when lakes become saline due to a lack of outflow and evaporation exceeds inflow.


The formation of anhydrite is primarily a result of the evaporation of water in these depositional environments. Here’s a step-by-step explanation of its formation:

  1. Source of Calcium and Sulfate Ions: The source of calcium ions (Ca2+) and sulfate ions (SO4^2-) necessary for anhydrite formation typically comes from the dissolution of minerals in the surrounding rocks or from the inflow of water into the depositional basin.
  2. Evaporation: As water in these environments evaporates, it leaves behind increasingly concentrated solutions of dissolved ions.
  3. Supersaturation: When the concentration of calcium and sulfate ions in the remaining water becomes high enough, the solution becomes supersaturated with respect to anhydrite. This means that the solution can no longer hold all the dissolved ions, leading to precipitation.
  4. Crystallization: Anhydrite crystals start to form as the solution becomes supersaturated. These crystals may grow as solid masses or develop as individual crystals.
  5. Accumulation: Over time, anhydrite deposits accumulate, along with other evaporite minerals, creating layers or beds within the sedimentary sequence.

The specific conditions and geological history of a given sedimentary basin will influence the size, purity, and distribution of anhydrite deposits within that region. Understanding the occurrence and formation of anhydrite is valuable for both geological research and industrial applications, as anhydrite deposits are often associated with valuable minerals and can serve as indicators of past environmental conditions.

Location and Deposits of Anhydrite

Anhydrite deposits can be found in various locations around the world, typically in sedimentary basins where the necessary geological and environmental conditions for its formation exist. These deposits often occur alongside other evaporite minerals such as gypsum and halite. Here are some notable regions and countries where anhydrite deposits are commonly found:

  1. North America:
    • United States: Anhydrite deposits can be found in various states, including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana. These deposits are often associated with oil and gas reservoirs.
  2. Europe:
    • United Kingdom: Anhydrite deposits are known to exist in parts of the North Sea, especially in areas where salt domes have formed. These deposits can have economic significance in the oil and gas industry.
    • Germany: Anhydrite can be found in regions like the North German Basin and the Zechstein Basin.
    • Poland: The Zechstein Basin in Poland contains anhydrite deposits, which are often associated with salt and potash mining.
  3. Asia:
    • China: Anhydrite deposits are found in various regions of China, particularly in areas with sedimentary basins.
  4. Middle East:
    • Saudi Arabia: The Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia, contains extensive evaporite deposits, including anhydrite, often associated with oil-bearing formations.
  5. Africa:
    • Algeria: Anhydrite deposits can be found in various sedimentary basins in Algeria.
  6. Australia:
    • Western Australia: Anhydrite deposits can be found in parts of Western Australia, especially in regions with salt flats and evaporite formations.
  7. South America:
    • Argentina: Anhydrite deposits have been identified in Argentina, particularly in areas with salt flats.
  8. Canada:
    • Western Canada: Anhydrite is associated with some oil and gas reservoirs in western Canada, including parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
  9. Mexico:
    • Gulf of Mexico: Anhydrite deposits can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, both onshore and offshore.

It’s important to note that the specific distribution and economic significance of anhydrite deposits can vary widely within these regions. Anhydrite is often encountered in geological studies, especially in the context of oil and gas exploration and mining operations. Its presence can have implications for reservoir quality and subsurface geology.

Additionally, anhydrite can occur in other geological settings, such as in hydrothermal veins, but its primary occurrences of economic importance are in sedimentary basins where it forms as an evaporite mineral due to the evaporation of water.

Uses and Application of Anhydrite

Anhydrite has several important industrial and commercial applications due to its unique properties. Here are some of the key uses and applications of anhydrite:

  1. Construction Industry:
    • Cement Production: Anhydrite is used as a raw material in the production of Portland cement. It is often added to clinker during the cement manufacturing process to control the setting time and improve the strength and durability of the final product. Anhydrite helps regulate the hydration reactions in cement, leading to the formation of strong and stable concrete.
  2. Agriculture:
    • Soil Amendment: In agriculture, anhydrite can be applied to soils that are deficient in calcium and sulfur. It acts as a soil conditioner to improve soil structure and nutrient availability, which can enhance crop growth.
  3. Industrial Applications:
    • Desiccant: Anhydrite is used as a desiccant (drying agent) in various industrial processes, such as natural gas processing, air conditioning systems, and the drying of solvents and chemicals.
  4. Manufacturing:
    • Plastics and Paints: Anhydrite is used as a filler and extender in the production of plastics, paints, and coatings. It improves the properties of these materials, such as hardness, smoothness, and fire resistance.
  5. Paper Production:
    • Paper Industry: Anhydrite is added to paper pulp as a filler to improve paper quality. It enhances the opacity, brightness, and smoothness of paper products.
  6. Oil and Gas Industry:
    • Drilling Fluids: Anhydrite can be used in drilling fluids for oil and gas wells. It helps control the rheological properties of the drilling mud, preventing wellbore instability and maintaining well integrity.
  7. Environmental Remediation:
    • Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD): Anhydrite is sometimes used in FGD systems to remove sulfur dioxide (SO2) from industrial emissions, such as those from power plants. It reacts with sulfur dioxide to form calcium sulfate, which can be disposed of safely.
  8. Pharmaceuticals:
    • Pharmaceutical Manufacturing: Anhydrite is used in some pharmaceutical formulations as an excipient or filler in tablet and capsule production.
  9. Geological Research:
    • Geological Studies: Anhydrite deposits are often studied by geologists as indicators of past geological conditions, including ancient marine environments and evaporite deposition.
  10. Decorative Stones:
    • Ornamental Use: In some cases, anhydrite is cut and polished to be used as an ornamental stone in jewelry and decorative items, although it is less common for this purpose compared to other minerals.

It’s important to note that the specific applications and uses of anhydrite can vary depending on its purity, quality, and regional availability. In many cases, anhydrite is processed or refined to meet the specific requirements of various industries. Its versatility and wide range of applications make anhydrite an important mineral resource in various sectors of the economy.