Uses of Common Minerals | Page One
What are minerals used for (or what are the uses of minerals)? This is Part One of a multi-page article which lists common minerals and describes their uses and practical applications in business, manufacturing, construction, health care, economic, and many other industries and products that most people use every day (often not even realizing their dependence upon them).
Minerals are listed below by name. Also provided is a brief description of the mineral as well as examples of how each mineral is used for anthropogenic purposes. Mineral names are linked to pictures on the YupRocks website to help solidify concepts - your browser's "Back" button will return you to your place in the article after you've had a look.
YupRocks has also made an attempt to provide external links that contain more detailed information on the minerals and concepts addressed below. External links open in a separate browser window/tab, so you can return to the YupRocks page at your convenience. If you have any recommendations for improving this online article, please feel free to contact us. Keep in mind this page is under development so more minerals will be added in the near future.
Thanks to Larson Tungsten Rings for providing a foundation for this article.
Minerals on Page One (Jump List):
Antimony | Asbestos | Barium | Bauxite | Beryllium
Chromite | Cobalt | Columbite-Tantalite | Copper
Commonly used with metal alloys to produce batteries, antimony is within the metalloids group on the periodic table, and appears grayish and metallic when observed in-situ (in-place in nature, which is a unique characteristic of antimony).
American Chemical Society: Info and Pictures
Asbestos is used for its fire-retardant properties, is mined from bedrock, and is commonly referred to as "Tiger's Eye" when cut and polished. It is known to cause cancer in those that inhale fine to microscopic particles in the normal course of breathing.
Asbestos is very friable and is easily dispersed by wind. One type of naturally occurring asbestos is
serpentine. Many older structures (pre-1970s) were built using asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Mining, construction, demolition, and environmental workers are most susceptible to exposure, and typically follow safety standards to prevent it.
Mindat.org: Tiger's Eye Gallery
Wikipedia: Asbestos Page
EPA: List of Suspect ACMs
Barium is a soft and light colored alkaline metal and is used to produce rubber, fireworks, rodent poison, and glass. Barium is also used during x-ray procedures, for example, to assist in identifying the location of a kidney stone blockage. Patients typically are asked to ingest something called a barium swallow, which soon after enters the digestive track where x-ray devices capture the barium reflectiion. Barium is mostly found as the mineral barite and witherite.
Jefferson Lab: The Element Barium
geology.com: Mineral Properties and Uses
Mined for its aluminum ore, bauxite is a sedimentary rock resulting from the lateritization of silicate rocks (shale, basalt, granite, and others). Bauxite is composed predominantly of the following minerals: goethite, hematite, gibbsite, boehmite, diaspore, anatase, and kaolinite (clay mineral).
Mining of the ore relies heavily on weathering of outcropped bauxite. Weathering results in the dissolution of the clay mineral (kaolinite), which leaves the more valuable minerals commonly mined. As a result, most bauxite mining operations apply strip mining practices, where weathered intervals are removed to depth until unweathered bauxite is encountered. Mining operations are common in the tropics along shore lines where bauxite outcrops have been heavily weathered.
Given bauxite is an aluminum ore, its uses vary from common (aluminum cans) to specific applications in chemical and metallurgical industries, among others.
OSU: Bauxite Description and Pictures
USGS: Bauxite and Alumina Statistics and Info
Beryllium is an alkaline earth metal typically found in association with other elements. It is commonly found in the mineral beryl. It is also found in association with distant stars in space. Beryllium is utilized in x-ray technologies (it is virtually transparent to x-rays), structural fortification and strengthening, aircraft and missile/rocket bodies, and lighting. It is known for its toxicity to humans if inhaled, but is used by animals or plants in nature.
One of two chromium ore minerals, chromite formed as a result of metamorphism (extreme heat and pressure), is exceptionally hard (second to diamond), and polishes to a beatiful shine. It is typically found in association with the minerals serpentine, olivine, magnetite, and corundum.
Glendale CC: Picture of Chromite Ore
Cobalt does not occur in nature by itself, but is found in combination with other elements. It exhibits a blue hue and is used in glass production, ceramics, and inks (including invisible inks). When combined with minerals like calcite, cobalt exhibits a pink hue and is sometimes used in jewelry. Cobalt is similar to iron, is very brittle, and is also found in meteorites.
Jefferson Lab: The Element Cobalt
Commonly used in the field of technology, columbite-tantalite is also used in health care products, personal protection devices, electronics, and automotive systems.
Mindat.org: Picture of Stibiotantalite
Found throughout Earth's crust, copper is a widely used and valued metal. Copper deposits were formed in a variety of ways, are found in multiple rock types, and are associated with a number of different minerals. While the most economically valuable copper-bearing mineral is chalcopyrite, copper is also commonly found in the minerals cuprite, chalcocite, malachite, and azurite.
Copper is used for piping, plumbing, jewelry, currency, and its frequent use to conduct electricity via copper wiring. The mineral copper is orange-red in color with a soft texture. Copper is traded in the stock markets and its value has varied throughout time. Demand for copper is usually driven by land development as modern day structures require it in significant quantities.
Geology.com: Facts About Copper