Which Minerals are Most Important?

There are more than 4,000 minerals known to man. Each year more and more are being discovered. After getting a basic understanding of minerals in class, you wonder which minerals are essential to humans? Then you wonder what makes a mineral important to humans. Surprisingly, this is only based on one of two factors. First, the majority of rocks exposed at Earth’s surface are composed of only a few dozen mineral; therefore these are considered the “rock-forming minerals. Second, many other minerals, although not abundant, are essential economic resources. Some of these resource minerals occur in naturally pure forms and are used almost are they are when removed from the ground. But Ore Minerals are not pure, and contain economically important metallic elements that must be extracted from the minerals by metallurgical processes that break mineral bonds. Examples of these elements obtained from ore minerals are iron, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, nickel, chromium, and uranium. The location of these elements are found within rock-forming minerals, they are typically present in such minute concentration that they cannot be extracted at acceptable cost. There are now technical advances that prevent detrimental damage and locate these pockets of certain mineral/elements.

Just 12 out of 89 naturally occurring elements account for 99.7% of the mass of the crust. The four most common elements are Oxygen, Silicon, Aluminum, and Iron.  The composition of the crust is known from analyses of actual rocks and estimates of their various proportions.

The five most important minerals, listed on the lost geologist include:

Quartz:It is one of the toughest and most widespread minerals that everyone will get in touch with sooner or later. Also it is a major building stone of the continental crust and makes for nice jewelery in the form of amethyst, rock crystals and smokey quartz. Every computer or optical device in the form of silicium.

Feldspar: Is actually a group of silicate minerals. It compromises a large portion of the earths crust and are highly useful as a resource for ceramics, pottery (clay minerals also play a role here) and construction materials.

Calcite/Aragonite: Great Barrier reef or the Carrara marble consists of these minerals. It can host great fossils and is widespread in many areas of the world. Useful resource for a variety of economical activities like cement production, paints, filling material, glass and ceramics.

Olivine: Constitutes a major portion of the earth’s mantle. One may find it in basalts which is what most people know. It can be beautifully green and of “gemstone quality”. Olivine rich rocks are hosts to important ore deposits, i.e. chromium.

Chalcosine/Chalcopyrite: Actually two different minerals but together the most important source of copper. After silver copper is the best electrical conductor and thus one of the most important metals in our society. Any electrical device needs copper. Additionally, together with tin it forms a very important alloy: Bronze.

Sources: Geology textbook and Lost Geologist

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One Response to Which Minerals are Most Important?

  1. jessicatibbs says:

    Being in lab and seeing the different minerals are cool. It hard to identify just the ones we saw in class. I can only imagine how the scientist feel when they have to try to identify the 4,000 different minerals we have. I know they may not know all of them but it’s hard just for me to figure out the few we have in class.

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