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How to Identify Iron Ore

How Is Iron Obtained?
Robert Thompson, Wikimedia Commons

The earth's core is made up of iron ore. Early man made tools and weapons from the iron ore they extracted from the earth and refined. Only meteorites carry pure iron ore, and the deposits locked away within the Earth require mining and refining. Layered deep in organic deposits, iron ore formed from the decay and transformation of that material into hematite and magnetite. Here's how to identify iron ore.

Look for peat bogs. Early humans used the iron ore deposits that were created under great bogs. Bog iron ore was the primary source for Iron Age products.

Clean the mined rocks with a solution of water and soap. Wash the mined rocks thoroughly to better identify the iron ore.

Look at the mined rocks closely. Iron ore has a shiny, metallic appearance within the rock. Iron ore is put down in layers and runs in "veins," much like gold.

Test the mined rock ore. Using a small rare earth magnet, test each portion of the rock for traces of magnetism. If iron ore exists, it will be magnetic.

Look for rust. Iron ore, if left to the elements after being extracted from the earth, will begin to exhibit rust. This oxidation is the degradation of the iron after being exposed to oxygen.

Things You'll Need:

  • Shovel
  • Mining tools
  • Magnet
  • Cleaning supplies


Take along a partner and a handheld GPS unit. After finding a deposit, mark the spot with the GPS for easier future reference. Iron ore can be heavy to carry. Take along a means to transport the ore.


  • Obtain all necessary permits and licenses before beginning any mining.
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