Dolomite is the name of a sedimentary carbonate rock and a mineral, both composed of calcium magnesium carbonate CaMg(CO3)2 found in crystals.
Dolomite rock (also dolostone) is composed predominantly of the mineral dolomite. Limestone that is partially replaced by dolomite is referred to as dolomitic limestone, or in old U.S. geologic literature as magnesian limestone.
Vast deposits are present in the geological record, but the mineral is relatively rare in modern environments. However, laboratory synthesis of stoichiometric dolomite has been carried out only at temperatures of greater than 100 degrees Celsius, conditions typical of burial in sedimentary basins-even though much dolomite in the rock record appears to have formed in low-temperature conditions. The high temperature is likely to speed up the movement of calcium and magnesium ions so that they can find their places in the ordered structure within a reasonable amount of time. This suggests that the lack of dolomite that is being formed today is likely due to kinematic factors.
Modern dolomite does occur as a precipitating mineral in specialized environments on the surface of the earth today. In the 1950s and 60s, dolomite was found to be forming in highly saline lakes in the Coorong region of South Australia. Dolomite crystals also occur in deep-sea sediments, where organic matter content is high. This dolomite is termed “organogenic” dolomite.