Common Minerals

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Most abundant metal element in Earth’s crust. Bauxite ore is the main source of aluminum and must be imported from Guinea, Australia, Jamaica, etc. Used in packaging (31%), transportation (22%) and building (19%).

A native element; antimony metal is extracted from stibnite and other minerals. Used as a hardening alloy for lead, especially storage batteries and cable sheaths; also used in bearing metal, type metal, solder, collapsible tubes and foil, sheet and pipes, and semiconductor technology. Used in fireworks. Antimony salts used in the rubber and textile industries, in medicine and glassmaking.

Because this group of silicate minerals can be readily separated into thin, strong fibers that are flexible, heat resistant and chemically inert, asbestos minerals are used in fireproof fabrics, yarn, cloth, paper, paint filler, gaskets, roofing composition, reinforcing agent in rubber and plastics, brake linings, tiles, electrical and heat insulation, cement and chemical filters. Fibers are dangerous when breathed, so uses must protect against fibers becoming airborne.

Used as a heavy additive in oil well drilling mud; in the paper and rubber industries, as a filler or extender in cloth, ink and plastics products, in radiography (“barium milkshake”), deoxidizer for copper, sparkplug alloys and in making an expensive white pigment.

Rock composed of hydrated aluminum oxides. See “aluminum.”

Used in the nuclear industry and in light, very strong alloys used in the aircraft industry. Beryllium salts are used in fluorescent lamps, in X-ray tubes and as a deoxidizer in bronze metallurgy. Beryl is the gem stones emerald and aquamarine.

Found in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Used mainly in chemical and metallurgical industries (chrome fixtures, etc.)

Coal is used primarily in the United States to generate electricity. In fact, it is burned in power plants to produce more than half of the electricity we use. If your family uses an electric stove, you use about half a ton of coal a year. If your water heater is electric, you are using about two tons of coal a year. If you have an electric refrigerator, that’s another half-ton a year. Some byproduct’s of coal are; Drugs, Dyes, Vitamins, Paint, Coke, Tar, Perfume, Nylon, Synthetic Rubber, Plastics, Rocket Fuel, solvents, bricks, explosives, just to name a few. Even though you may never see coal, you use several tons of it every year!
Used in superalloys for jet engines, chemicals (paint dryers, catalysts, magnetic coatings), permanent magnets, and cemented carbides for cutting tools. Comes principally from Zaire, Zambia, Canada, Cuba and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). United States uses one-third of world production.

Columbite-tantalite group
The principal ore of niobium and tantalum, used mostly as an additive in steel making and in superalloys; used in metallurgy for heat-resistant alloys, rust-proofing (stainless steel) and electromagnetic superconductors. Brazil and Canada are leading producers.

Used in electric cables and wires, switches, plumbing, heating; roofing and building construction; chemical and pharmaceutical machinery; alloys (brass, bronze and a new alloy with 3% beryllium that is particularly vibration resistant); alloy castings; electroplated protective coatings and undercoats for nickel, chromium, zinc, etc. Leading producers are Chile, United States, CIS, Canada, Zambia and Zaire.

A rock-forming mineral; industrially important in glass and ceramic industries; patter and enamelware; soaps; bond for abrasive wheels; cements and u; insulating compositions; fertilizer; tarred roofing materials; and as a sizing, or filler, in textiles and paper.

Fluorite (fluorspar)
Used in production of hydrofluoric acid, which is used in the pottery, ceramics, optical, electroplating and plastics industries; in the metallurgical treatment of bauxite; as a flux in open hearth steel furnaces and in metal smelting; in carbon electrodes; emery wheels; electric arc welders; toothpaste; and paint pigment.

Used in dentistry and medicine; in jewelry and arts; in medallions and coins; in ingots as a store of value; for scientific and electronic instruments; as an electrolyte in the electroplating industry. Leading producers are South Africa, United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China and CIS.

Processed and used as prefabricated wallboard or an industrial or building plaster; used in cement manufacture; agriculture and other uses.

Halite (sodium chloride–salt)
Used in human and animal diet, food seasoning and food preservations; used to prepare sodium hydroxide, soda ash, caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, chlorine, metallic sodium; used in ceramic glazes; metallurgy, curing of hides; mineral waters; soap manufacture; home water softeners; highway de-icing; photography; in scientific equipment for optical parts. Single crystals used for spectroscopy, ultraviolet and infrared transmission.

Iron Ore
Used to manufacture steels of various types. Powdered iron: used in metallurgy products; magnets; high-frequency cores; auto parts; catalyst. Radioactive iron (iron 59): in medicine; tracer element in biochemical and metallurgical research. Iron blue: in paints, printing inks, plastics, cosmetics, paper dyeing. Black iron oxide: as pigment; in polishing compounds; metallurgy; medicine; magnetic inks. Most U.S. production from Minnesota and Michigan. Australia, Brazil, China and CIS are major producers.
Used in lead batteries, gasoline additives (now being eliminated) and tanks, and solders, seals or bearing; used in electrical and electronic applications; TV tubes and glass, construction, communications and protective coatings; in ballast or weights; ceramics or crystal glass; X-ray and gamma radiation shielding; sound proofing material in construction industry; and ammunition. United States is largest producer (mainly from Missouri) and consumer of lead metal.

A rock consisting mainly of calcium carbonate, often composed of the organic remains of sea animals, such as mollusks, corals, etc., and is used as building stone, a source of lime, etc. When crystallized by heat and pressure it becomes marble.
Compounds are used in ceramics and glass; in primary aluminum production; in the manufacture of lubricants and greases; rocket propellants; vitamin A synthesis; silver solder; batteries; medicine.

Essential to iron and steel production. Major producers: South Africa and CIS.

Micas commonly occur as flakes, scales or shreds. Sheet muscovite (white) mica is used in electronic insulators; ground mica in paints, as joint cement, as a dusting agent, in well-drilling muds; and in plastics, roofing, rubber and welding rods.

Used in alloy steels (47% of all uses) to make automotive parts, construction equipment, gas transmission pipes; stainless steels (21%); tool steels (9%); cast irons (7%); super alloys (7%); and chemicals and lubricants (8%). As a pure metal, molybdenum is used because of its high melting temperatures (4,730 F) as filament supports in light bulbs, metalworking dies and furnace parts. Molybdenum disulphide, the most common natural form of molybdenum, is extracted from ore and then purified for direct use in lubricants. This material by itself, since it has a layered structure, makes a very efficient lubricant. Major producers are Canada, Chile and the United States.

Vital as an alloy to stainless steel; plays key role in the chemical and aerospace industries. Leading producers are Australia, Canada, Norway and CIS.

Expanded perlite is used in roof insulation boards; as fillers, filter aids and for horticulture.

Platinum Group Metals (PGM)
Includes platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and ruthenium. Commonly occur together in nature and are among the scarcest of the metallic elements. Platinum is used principally in catalysts for the control of automobile and industrial plant emissions; in jewelry; in catalysts to produce acids, organic chemicals and pharmaceutical. PGMs used in bushings for making glass fibers used in fiber-reinforced plastic and other advanced materials, in electrical contacts, in capacitors, in conductive and resistive films used in electronic circuits; in dental alloys used for making crowns and bridge. Nearly all reserves are in CIS and South Africa. U.S. has one PGM mine.

Phosphate rock
Used to produce phosphoric acid for ammoniated phosphate fertilizers, feed additives for livestock, elemental phosphorus, and a variety of phosphate chemicals for industrial and home consumers. U.S. production from Florida, North Carolina, Idaho and Utah.

A carbonate of potassium; used as a fertilizer, in medicine, in the chemical industry and to produce decorative color effects on brass, bronze and nickel.

Used in the manufacture of sulfur, sulfuric acid and sulfur dioxide; pellets of pressed pyrite dust are used to recover iron, gold, copper, cobalt, nickel; used to make inexpensive jewelry.

Quartz (silica)
As a crystal, quartz is used as a semiprecious gem stone. Crystalline varieties include amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, smoky quartz, etc. Cryptocrystalline forms include agate, jasper, onyx, etc. Because of its piezoelectric properties quartz is used for pressure gauges, oscillators, resonators and wave stabilizes; because of its ability to rotate the plane of polarization of light and its transparency in ultraviolet rays, it is used in heat-ray lamps, prism and spectrographic lenses. also used in manufacturing glass, paints, abrasives, refractories and precision instruments.

Rare Earth Elements (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium ytterbium and lutetium)
Used mainly in petroleum fluid cracking catalysts, metallurgical additives, ceramics and polishing compounds, permanent magnets and phosphors.

Used in manufacture of computer chips, glass and refractory materials; ceramics; abrasives; water filtration; component of hydraulic cements; filler in cosmetics, pharmaceutical, paper, insecticides; anti-caking agent in foods; flatting agent in paints; thermal insulator.

Used in photography, chemistry, jewelry; in electronics because of its very high conductivity; as currency, usually as an alloy; in lining vats and other equipment for chemical reaction vessels, water distillation, etc.; catalyst in manufacture of ethylene; mirrors; silver plating; table cutlery; dental, medical and scientific equipment; bearing metal; magnet windings; brazing alloys, solder. Mined in 56 countries, silver’s largest reserves are in the United States Canada, Mexico, Peru and CIS.

Sodium Bicarbonate and Soda Ash

Used in glass container manufacture; in fiberglass and specialty glass; in liquid detergents; in medicine; and as a food additive, just to name a few uses. Colorado is home to the only pure sodium bicarbonate (nahcolite) deposits in the United States.

See “antimony.”

Used in the manufacture of sulfuric acid, fertilizers, chemicals, explosives, dyestuff, petroleum refining; vulcanization of rubber; fungicides.

A refractory metal with unique electrical, chemical and physical properties used to produce electronic components, tantalum capacitor; for high-purity tantalum metals in products ranging from weapon systems to superconductors; high-speed tools; catalyst; sutures and body implants; electronic circuitry; thin-film components. Used in optical glass and electroplating devices. Leading producers are Australia, Brazil, Canada and Thailand.

Tin is one of the earliest metals known and used. Because of its hardening effect on copper, tin was used in bronze implements as early as 3,500 B.C., although the pure metal was not used until about 600 B.C. About 35 countries mine tin throughout the world. Nearly every continent has an important tin-mining country. Tin is a relatively scarce element with an abundance in the earth’s crust of about 2 parts per million (ppm), compared with 94 ppm for zinc, 63 ppm for copper, and 12 ppm for lead. Most of the world’s tin is produced from placer deposits; at least one-half comes from Southeast Asia.
A metal once used mostly in jet engines, airframes and space and missile applications, now also used as a coating in some industries. (Extends tool life in cold forming industry alone from 125,000 to 250,000 pieces or more, depending on the application.) A coating of one to 5 microns allows for better heat treating to approximately 85 Rockwell (C Scale) hardness, making the coated metal harder than hard chrome or carbide material. Now it is also used to coat ordinary drill bits. Produced in western and central U.S., the UK, China, Japan and CIS.

Used in metalworking; construction and electrical machinery and equipment; in transportation equipment; as filament in light bulbs; as a carbide in drilling equipment; in heat and radiation shielding; textile dyes, enamels, paints and for coloring glass.

More than 20 percent of our electricity is produced using uranium in nuclear generation. It is also used for nuclear medicine, atomic dating, powering nuclear submarines and other uses in the U.S. defense system.

Used in metal alloys (titanium alloys important for aerospace); as a catalyst for production of maleic anhydride and sulfuric acid; in dyes and mordants; as target material for X-rays. CIS and South Africa are largest producers; large reserves also found in the United States and China.

Used in aquaculture (fish hatcheries for removing ammonia from the water); water softener; in catalysts; cat litter; odor control; and for removing radioactive ions from nuclear plant effluent.

Used as protective coating on steel, as die casting, as an alloying metal with copper to make brass, and as chemical compounds in rubber and paints; used as sheet zinc and for galvanizing iron; electroplating; metal spraying; automotive parts; electrical fuses; anodes; dry cell batteries; nutrition; chemicals; roof gutter; engravers’ plates; cable wrappings; organ pipes and pennies. zinc oxide used in medicine, paints, in vulcanizing rubber, sun block. Zinc dust used for primers, paints, precipitation of noble metals; removal of impurities from solution in zinc electrowinning. U.S. production mostly from Tennessee, Missouri, New York and Alaska.

Source: Facts About Minerals (National Mining Association); Mineral Information Institute