A Borax Mine

The open pit mine of U.S. Borax at Boron, California, is the world’s principal source of borates. To expose the ore, which lies approximately 300-600 feet below the surface, the overburden is removed by using explosives, electric shovels, and gigantic trucks.

Boron is a very hard, black, shiny, solid. Although it is somewhat metallic in appearance, it is a very poor conductor of electricity. It is best regarded as a semimetal, like silicon.

Boric acid and the borates are among the simplest and most important of the compounds of boron. Boric acid is a stable, colorless crystalline compound. Borates are salts of boric acid and are commonly known as borax. Borax is used as a water softener and as a component of washing powders. Borates are found in only a very few places, for example, California and Turkey, but the deposits in those places are extremely large.