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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

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.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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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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