Cassiterite is a tin oxide mineral, SnO2. It is generally opaque, but it is translucent in thin crystals. Its luster and multiple crystal faces produce a desirable gem. Cassiterite has been the chief tin ore throughout ancient history and remains the most important source of tin today.
Physical Properties of Cassiterite
Cassiterite has several properties that aid in its identification and enable it to be found in minable quantities. Its adamantine luster, high hardness, light streak, and high specific gravity are helpful in its identification. Its high specific gravity, resistance to weathering and physical durability enable it to survive stream transport and concentrate in placer deposits.
Most sources of cassiterite today are found in alluvial or placer deposits containing the resistant weathered grains. The best sources of primary cassiterite are found in the tin mines of Bolivia, where it is found in hydrothermal veins. Rwanda has a nascent cassiterite mining industry. Fighting over cassiterite deposits (particularly in Walikale) is a major cause of the conflict waged in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This has led to cassiterite being considered a conflict mineral.