Mineral Resources: Examples, Types, Uses and Exploration

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Mineral resources are useful and natural materials for making valuable goods; these resources play an important role in our economic sector, majority of the countries in the world solely depend on mineral resources for their economic growth and development. Minerals are refined into finished goods for making most of the industrial products which we use in our society such as railways, roads, cars, computers, plastics, pots, cans, metals, coins, and fertilizers, etc. Minerals resources are found in different parts of the world in the earth’s crust but usually in such a small amount and they can only be extracted where they are found with the help of certain geological processes. See other types of resources

What are mineral resources?

Mineral resources are essential natural occurring materials or commodities found on or in the earth in such small amounts which are mined for their potential uses or their intrinsic values. Minerals resources come in different shapes and sizes and are divided into two major categories as Metallic and Nonmetallic mineral resources.

Examples of Metallic resources include minerals like Gold, Silver, Tin, Copper, Lead, Zinc, Iron, Nickel, Chromium, and Aluminium. Examples of Nonmetallic resources include minerals like sand, gravel, gypsum, halite, uranium, and dimension stone.

However, mineral resources are categorized based on their chemical composition, color, hardness, streak, affiliation, and elemental. Different minerals resources are extracted from the earth differently and certain activities are usually done in the soil or in the water to survey certain mineral deposits and availability before exploration can take place; such activities include remote sensing (aerial photography and satellite imagery), gravity meters, magnetometers, and geochemical surveys.

Classification

Mineral resources are classified into three major classes as

  1. Metallic Mineral Resources
  2. Non-metallic Mineral Resources
  3. Fuel Mineral Resources
  1. Metallic mineral resources– are minerals resources that contain metal in raw form, their appearances have metallic shine and they can be melted to obtain new products. They also contain metals in their chemical composition, the only way you can extract them is through mining some examples of metallic mineral resources include Gold, Silver, Copper, Tin, Iron, Lead, Zinc, Nickel, Chromium, and Aluminium.
  2. Nonmetallic mineral resources are minerals that do not contain extractable metals in their chemical composition; they contain nonmetallic shine or luster in their appearance. Examples of nonmetallic mineral resources include sand, stone, gravel, clay, gypsum halite, and Uranium. These minerals can be reprocessed through grinding, mixing, cutting, shaping for intermediate use.
  3. Fuel mineral resources are the basic mineral resources in the world, some examples of these include fossil fuels such as coal, crude oil (petroleum), and natural gas; these are primarily gotten from the remains of dead plant and animal, they are often referred to as fossil fuels and are formed from hydrocarbon. When fossil fuels are burned, they particularly give rise to a great source of heat energy. The proper use of fossil fuels has enabled large-scale industrial development and largely supplanted water-driven mills, as well as the combustion of wood or peat for heat.

Types of mineral resources and their uses

  1. Fuel/Crude oil– crude oil which is popularly known as petroleum, is a liquid found within the Earth comprised of hydrocarbons, organic compounds, and small amounts of metal. Crude oil is a mixture of naturally occurring hydrocarbons that are refined into heating oil, diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, and kerosene,
    crude oil is commonly extracted simply by drilling into the ground in the exact position where the oil is found.
  2. Coal– Coal is a sedimentary/metamorphic rock produced in swamps where there is a large-scale accumulation of organic matter from plants. As plants die, they decay and accumulate to first become peat. Compaction of the peat due to burial drives off volatile components like water and methane, eventually producing a lump of black-color organic-rich coal called lignite. Further compaction and heating result in more carbon-rich coal called bituminous coal. If the rock becomes metamorphosed, a lump of high-grade coal called anthracite is produced. However, if temperatures and pressures become extremely high, all of the carbon is changed to graphite. Graphite will burn only at high temperatures and is therefore not useful as an energy source. Anthracite coal produces the most energy when burned, with less energy produced by bituminous coal and lignite.
  3. Natural gas– natural gas is derived from marine plants and animals; that is by a combination of sedimentary processes) which trap and bury plant and animal remains, and then metamorphic processes which heat and change the plant and animal remains into deposits of oil and gas.
  4. Gold– gold is a rare, valuable, and durable precious metal with a versatile use; gold is relatively heavy and can be made into a wide range of intricate jewelry designs. Apart from being used as jewelry, gold is also used in dentistry, medicine, coins, and applications for the aerospace industry. However, gold has high corrosion resistance and will not tarnish from everyday use, thus making it ideal for jewelry. Gold is commonly alloyed with other metals to increase its strength and durability, as well as to alter its hue. Gold is available in various degrees of purity. Yellow gold is seen most often, but white gold (gold mixed with palladium, nickel, and silver) is also popular in some parts of the world, especially for bridal jewelry.
  5. Silver– silver is a light precious substance used for making jewelry, cell phone covers, fine silverware, coins, and photography. Because of its versatility, availability, affordability, and appeal; it is used for different things and it is very bright, durable, and easy to work with. Silver also is substantially cheaper than gold or platinum.
  6. Platinum– Platinum is the most precious and durable of all metals used in the jewelry industry; it is very pure and it is rarer, denser, and stronger than gold or silver. Because of its purity, it doesn’t tarnish or fade after much use, and it’s extremely durable. Platinum has a deeper and more luminescent white hue than either white gold or silver. Platinum is the traditional metal for heirloom-quality jewelry. It’s a natural partner for a fine white diamond.
  7. Lead– it is a bluish-white soft malleable ductile plastic, or inelastic heavy metallic element found mostly in combination, and it’s used especially in X-ray and gamma radiation shielding, pipes, cable sheaths, batteries, solder, and shields against radioactivity, ceramics, weights, and ammunition.
  8. Gypsum– this is a soft white or grey mineral consisting of hydrated calcium sulfate. It occurs chiefly in sedimentary deposits; it is used for making cement, plaster of Paris, fertilizer, wallboard, and glass.
  9. Tin– a soft silvery-white, ductile and malleable metal which is obtained mainly from the mineral cassiterite, which contains tin dioxide, SnO, tin is used in containers, as a protective coating, in tinfoil, and in soft solders and alloys.
  10. Copper– Copper is a soft shiny and malleable metal used as an alloy (bronze and brass), it is the 29th element on the periodic table. This metal is resistant to corrosion when it is exposed to air and water and it is used to make coins, brass instruments, pipes, and fungicides, it is also a good conductor of electricity which is why it’s used for electrical wiring in our homes.
  11. Aluminum– this is a silvery-white lightweight metal with a malleable and durable property; it is soft and malleable. Aluminum is the third most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust and it is used in smartphones, tablets, laptops, and a flat-screen TV. However, because of its strength and weight ratio, Aluminium is used in a huge variety of products including pots, pans, basins, cans, rail constructions, zinc, foils, kitchen utensils, window frames, and airplane parts.
  12. Gravel– gravel is one of the most accessible natural deposits classified by particle size range; it includes size classes from granule- to boulder-sized fragments that are gotten from river channels, river flood plains, and glacial deposits. Gravel is used for various constructions and most often used for making construction materials such as concrete blocks, bricks, pipes, mixing with asphalt, and as construction fill.
  13. Sand– this is the most accessible natural resource found in the beach, roadside, water channels, rivers, and streams, it is mostly quartz, formed by weathering of igneous rocks like granite, it comes in various sizes of grain. Sand has varieties of uses. It is used in sandbags, for construction or to line the floors of arenas and other surfaces, for playgrounds, and hosts of other uses.

Mineral resources exploration

Mineral resources are mined once the deposit has been discovered in the ground or in the sea; this process is usually done by different methods most times using the opencast quarrying or underground mining method or by pumping. The mining process depends on the type of mineral discovered. For instance, salt is usually extracted by pumping; in this case, the salt is dissolved in water and pumped from underground just like in the case of oil and gas.

After these minerals have been extracted from the ground, they are processed and purified to a form useful material in which we use on a daily basis. The mining process usually involves removing any unwanted impurities and further processing to increase the concentration of the economic mineral. Metallic minerals may be smelted or refined to produce metal close to the mine, or the concentrate may be transported to another site for further processing.

Oil and gas are also further refined before use. Finally, once a mineral deposit has been found it has to be extracted from the ground to access the valuable minerals it contains

The way minerals are transported from one place to another depends on their value and bulkiness. It is not economic to transport heavy low-cost minerals like aggregates over long distances, whereas expensive minerals like metals or oil can be transported internationally using ship (water transport) or air transport.

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