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In this module, the following topics will be covered: 1) the importance of minerals to society; 2) the factors that control availability of mineral resources, 3) the future world mineral supply and demand; 4) the environmental impact of mining and processing of minerals; 5) solutions to the crisis involving mineral supply

Learning objectives

After reading this module, students should be able to

  • know the importance of minerals to society
  • know factors that control availability of mineral resources
  • know why future world mineral supply and demand is an important issue
  • understand the environmental impact of mining and processing of minerals
  • understand how we can work toward solving the crisis involving mineral supply

Importance of minerals

Mineral resources are essential to our modern industrial society and they are used everywhere. For example, at breakfast you drink some juice in a glass (made from melted quartz sand), eat from a ceramic plate (created from clay minerals heated at high temperatures), sprinkle salt (halite) on your eggs, use steel utensils (from iron ore and other minerals), read a magazine (coated with up to 50% kaolinite clay to give the glossy look), and answer your cellphone (containing over 40 different minerals including copper, silver, gold, and platinum). We need minerals to make cars, computers, appliances, concrete roads, houses, tractors, fertilizer, electrical transmission lines, and jewelry. Without mineral resources, industry would collapse and living standards would plummet. In 2010, the average person in the U.S. consumed more than16,000 pounds of mineral resources Americans also consumed more than 21,000 pounds of energy resources from the Earth including coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium. (see Table Per Capita Consumption of Minerals ). With an average life expectancy of 78 years, that translates to about1.3 million pounds of mineral resources over such a person’s lifetime. Here are a few statistics that help to explain these large values of mineral use: an average American house contains about 250,000 pounds of minerals (see Figure Mineral Use in the Kitchen for examples of mineral use in the kitchen), one mile of Interstate highway uses 170 million pounds of earth materials, and the U.S. has nearly 4 million miles of roads. All of these mineral resources are nonrenewable, because nature usually takes hundreds of thousands to millions of years to produce mineral deposits. Early hominids used rocks as simple tools as early as 2.6 million years ago. At least 500,000 years ago prehistoric people used flint (fine-grained quartz) for knives and arrowheads. Other important early uses of minerals include mineral pigments such as manganese oxides and iron oxides for art, salt for food preservation, stone for pyramids, and metals such as bronze (typically tin and copper), which is stronger than pure copper and iron for steel, which is stronger than bronze.

illustration of mineral uses in the kitchen
Mineral Use in the Kitchen Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Per capita consumption of nonenergy related minerals and metals in the U.S. for 2010 and for a lifetime of 78.3 years assuming 2010 mineral consumption rates Sources: US Geological Survey, National Mining Association, and U.S. Census Bureau
Mineral Per Capita Consumption of Minerals – 2010 (Pounds per Person) Per Capita Consumption of Minerals - Lifetime (Pounds Per Person)
Bauxite (Aluminum) 65 5,090
Cement 496 38,837
Clays 164 12,841
Copper 12 939.6
Iron Ore 357 27,953
Lead 11 861
Manganese 5 392
Phosphate Rock 217 16,991
Potash 37 2,897
Salt 421 32,964
Sand, Gravel, Stone 14,108 1,104,656
Soda Ash 36 2,819
Sulfur 86 6,734
Zinc 6 470
Other Metals 24 1,879
Other Nonmetals 332 25,996
Total 16,377 1,282,319

Questions & Answers

Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Berger describes sociologists as concerned with
Mueller Reply
what is hormones?
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Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
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