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Iron ore locations

Jeremy Absher

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I've been blacksmithing for years, I really want to try smelting some iron, but cant find any iron ore locally. I'm in north alabama, but I'm on vacation in colorodo for a week. Does anyone know where i can find a few 5 gallon buckets of ore in the denver area, or on the drive home to north alabama? Thanks

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I'm not sure how helpful this is because I lack any knowledge of smelting. I've lived in North Louisiana since birth and have always called the rocks in the red dirt/clay around here iron ore rocks because everyone called them that. Now, I always found it interesting as a young kid. That interest kicked up a bit once I started blacksmithing. Your post has sorta spiked my interest even more. Maybe I should spend some time in this section of the forum. Always something I wanted to try but just never did.

Anywho, basically all around north louisiana is this red dirt with these rocks in it. In fact, when I was digging a foundation for my power hammer, I took the first shovel to the dirt and it just rebounded right back at me. I basically had to chip through this stuff for 2 feet. That was a pain.

I'm going to include some images from the outside of my shop and maybe someone more knowledgeable about rocks and such could tell me if this would work for smelting. The larger chunks don't seem to be jump to a magnet but if I drag a magnet accross the ground, it will pick up some of the smaller pieces. 

This stuff is everywhere around here. Those big rocks piled up are rocks that we pulled out to get out of the way for some project, can't remember anymore.Rocks2.jpgRocks1.jpgRocks3.jpgRocks4.jpg


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I really thought we had a pinned thread on how to find iron ore locations, but I'm not seeing it if we do...

Colorado is notoriously poor in iron ore.  Silver, gold, lead, molybdenum, and tungsten they have, iron not so much.  Northern Alabama, on the other hand, is in the silurian red ore band, which is why Birmingham is where it is.  And Tannehill Furnace, and so on.  I don't have the maps for the ore beds there, but I'm sure they're available from your state geologist.  Be aware that most of the major orebanks are depleted.  Birmingham was importing ore from Brazil at the end of it's time as an ironmaking center.  That doesn't mean there are not still good orebanks around.  Go to  www.mindat.org and search for iron ore in Alabama.  Use the terms limonite, goethite, siderite, hematite, maghemite, and magnetite.  The ore may be bedded along the base of bluffs or occur as float loose in the topsoil.  The float ore is generally better stuff, but harder and messier to get.

Ask around.  University geologists are delighted when someone shows an interest. The Alabama Geological Survey has a bunch of reports on iron ore districts around northern Alabama, go to their website at https://www.gsa.state.al.us/ogb/publications and type "iron ore" in the search window on the left.  There's eight of them, $1.75 apiece.  And it's mostly brown ores, or goethite, the easiest to smelt there is!


Cody posed while I was typing this, and dude!  That's ore all right!  Looks kind of like siderite, iron carbonate.  Roast some up and see if it turns magnetic!  

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Well, that is encouraging. I feel like I'm about to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes. For some reason, this is a topic I never really researched. Doing a cursory search, I see that for roasting, it looks like I should heat it up to 1500ish and hold for a while. Is this something that would be relatively safe to throw a small piece in the forge just to test it out? I read something about explosions and the like.

Well, seems like I have a ton of reading to do.

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I just throw it in a burn barrel on top of a full charge of wood, and add a slight air blast until the whole thing is reduced to ash.  Dump that out and see if the remaining rocks are magnetic.  An open fire is fine too.  And you can indeed toss a small chunk in the forge for a while to see what happens to it.  Read Lee Sauder's page here http://www.leesauder.com/pdfs/dumplings.pdf to see an ingenious method of testing your ore for iron content.

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Lee Sauder posted this site a while back: https://www.mindat.org/


“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  





J.States Bladesmith | Facebook



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I'm not sure about ore, I couldn't find any either. What I did find was a source for pure iron that I had decent luck with.

Not smelting technically, rather orishigane.. But there are similarities between the processes and the end results. As a bonus, it can be done on a much smaller scale.

Not remembering the name of the company off the top of my head, but it's where Louis Mills got all of his iron back in the day.

If your interested let me know and I'll find the contact info.



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