Greenalite (green) with galena and siderite, from Spain
Kaolinite-serpentine group
(repeating unit)
IMA symbolGre[1]
Strunz classification9.ED.15
Crystal systemMonoclinic
Crystal classDomatic (m)
(same H-M symbol)
Space groupCm
Unit cella = 5.54, b = 9.55
c = 7.44 [Å]; β = 104.2°; Z = 2
ColorGreen, light yellow-green
Crystal habitRare minute crystals, rounded grains common; as porphyroblasts, oolites
Mohs scale hardness2.5
LusterDull, earthy
DiaphaneityTranslucent to subopaque
Specific gravity2.85 - 3.15
Optical propertiesBiaxial (+)
Refractive indexnα = 1.650 - 1.675 nβ = 1.674 nγ = 1.674
Birefringenceδ = 0.024
PleochroismX = pale yellow, Y and Z = green
Other characteristicsMagnetic

Greenalite is a mineral in the kaolinite-serpentine group with the chemical composition (Fe2+,Fe3+)2-3Si2O5(OH)4.[2][5] It is a member of the serpentine group.[3]


Greenalite was first described in 1903 for an occurrence in the Mesabi Range near Biwabik, St. Louis County, Minnesota and named for its green color.[3]

Greenalite occurs as a primary mineral in banded iron formations. Rocks which contain greenalite are usually bright green, pale green or pale brown. Greenalite occurs with quartz, stilpnomelane, siderite, chamosite, pyrite and minnesotaite. It is commonly oolitic.[2]

Effect on early life

Greenalite, which is common in Archean rocks, formed rapidly in Archean seawater removing zinc, copper and vanadium in the process. This left the seawater rich in manganese, molybdenum, and cadmium, which are metals favoured by lifeforms at that time. Experiments have shown that the removed metals would have been removed permanently, having a significant effect on early seawater.[6]


  1. ^ Warr, L.N. (2021). "IMA–CNMNC approved mineral symbols". Mineralogical Magazine. 85 (3): 291–320. Bibcode:2021MinM...85..291W. doi:10.1180/mgm.2021.43. S2CID 235729616.
  2. ^ a b c Handbook of Mineralogy
  3. ^ a b c Greenalite on
  4. ^ Greenalite on Webmineral
  5. ^ Sleep N.H., Bird D.K. (2007): Niches of the pre-photosynthetic biosphere and geologic preservation of Earth’s earliest ecology. Geobiology 5, 101-117
  6. ^ "Recreation of ancient seawater reveals which nutrients shaped the evolution of early life". University of Oxford. 13 November 2023. Retrieved 2023-11-20.