Mineral Facts



  • The Earth’s surface contains an enormous wealth of mineral resources, from clay for bricks to gems such as rubies and diamonds.
  • Fossil fuels are oil, coal and natural gas.
  • Fossil fuels were made from the remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. The remains were changed into fuel by intense heat and pressure.
  • Coal is made from plants that grew in swamps during the Carboniferous Period 300 million years ago.
  • Oil and natural gas were made from the remains of tiny plants and animals that lived in warm seas.
  • Ores are the minerals from which metals are extracted. Bauxite is the ore for aluminum; chalcopyrite for copper; galena for lead; hematite for iron; sphalerite for zinc.
  • Veins are narrow pipes of rock that are rich in minerals such as gold and silver. They are created when hot liquids made of volcanic material underground seep up through cracks in the rock.
  • Strip mining is one process we use to obtain minerals from the earth. These minerals include salt, gold, diamonds, coal, gravel and iron.
  • Mineral resources can be located by studying rock strata (layers), often by satellite and by taking rock samples.
  • Geophysical prospecting is hunting for minerals using physics — looking for variations in the rock’s electrical conductivity, magnetism, gravity or moisture content.
  • Seismic surveys try to locate minerals using sound vibrations, often generated by underground explosions
  • Minerals are the natural chemicals from which rocks are made.
  • All but a few minerals are crystals.
  • Some rocks are made from crystals of just one mineral; many are made from half a dozen or more minerals.
  • Most minerals are combinations of two or more chemical elements. A few minerals, such as gold and copper, are made of just one element.
  • There are over 2000 minerals, but around 30 of these are very common.
  • Most of the less common minerals are present in rocks in minute traces. They may become concentrated in certain places by geological processes.
  • Silicate minerals are made when metals join with oxygen and silicon. There are more silicate minerals than all the other minerals together.
  • The most common silicates are quartz and feldspar, the most common rock-forming minerals. They are major constituents in granite and other volcanic rocks.
  • Other common minerals are oxides such as hematite and cuprite, sulphates such as gypsum and barite, sulphides such as galena and pyrite, and carbonates such as calcite and aragonite.
  • Some minerals form as hot, molten rock from the Earth’s interior, some from chemicals dissolved in liquids underground, and some are made by changes to other minerals.