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3.1.4. Utilities of minerals

What are minerals for?

Minerals have always been used as raw material throughout the history of mankind. In fact, history is divided into a series of periods that are named after the materials they dominated and used to make their tools and weapons. These advances allowed man to pass through the different stages:

Stone Age - Copper Age - Bronze Age - Iron Age

These materials that dominated were metals that were part of minerals.

According to the use given to minerals, the following groups are distinguished :

Minerals that constitute the ore of useful metals for humans

Although metals can be found directly, in the form of native elements such as goldsilver, mercury, copper, ... there are also other minerals in which they appear combined with other elements but which, due to their high concentration, can be usable. These minerals are said to be ores  of those metals.

The following table indicates minerals ores of different metals and their usefulness:

Mineral Ore Applications
Galena Lead In tubes and for welding. If it is silver galena, it may be silver ore
sphalerite Zinc Brass (copper and zinc), electric batteries, etc.
Cinnabar Mercury

It was used in thermometers and other instruments, such as barometers.

Magnetite

Goethite

Hematite

Iron

Production of steel (iron-carbon alloy) for beams, machine parts, tools,...

Bauxite Aluminum In cars, window frames, electricity,...
Cassiterite Tin Bonded to copper it forms bronze (copper and tin)

chalcopyrite

cuprite

Copper

In electrical cables, pipes for water and gas, alloys such as bronze (copper and tin), brass (copper and zinc), nickel silver (copper, nickel and zinc)

Coltan

Tantalum

Electronic Equipment Capacitors

chromite

Chrome

Stainless steel

Game: Case of applications of minerals (children). 

Minerals used as raw material to produce useful substances for humans

Some of the minerals that are used as a source of other useful substances are:

  • Quartz: Used to make the glass for our windows, bottles, etc.
  • Calcite: Limestone (calcite) is used for the manufacture of cement .
  • Gypsum: Used in construction. Some varieties, such asalabaster,are used in crafts.
  • Graphite; As a lubricant and to make pencils.

Pigments are obtained from other minerals for the manufacture of paints, such as cinnabar  or hematite .

Minerals used in jewelry

Gold (almost impossible to find in its pure state, but mixed with silver or copper), platinum (never appears pure, but mixed with iron) and silver (rarely in its pure state), are elements that are used in jewelry for its beauty and easy handling when working with them.

In addition, precious stones are also used, highly valued for their color, hardness and optical qualities:

  • Diamond.
  • Ruby. Red in color, it comes from corundum (an aluminum oxide).
  • Sapphire. Blue in color, it also comes from corundum.
  • Emerald. Green in color, it comes from the mineral beryl (beryllium aluminum silicate).

There are also other semi-precious stones:

  • Amethyst.
  • Turquoise.
  • Topaz.
  • Opal.
  • Jade.
  • Zircon.
  • Some varieties of quartz.
  • Agate.
  • Olivine.
  • Aquamarine and other varieties of beryl.

Energy minerals

Uraninite is the main source of uranium. Enriched uranium is used as fuel in nuclear reactors.