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An Overview Of Mineral: The Diversity And Impact On Our World

The Diversity And Impact Of Mineral On Our World

Contents

Minerals are the Earth’s hidden treasures, and they tell a fascinating story about our planet’s formation and our own resourcefulness. Their incredible variety and unique properties make them endlessly fascinating.

In this blog, we’ll dive deep into the world of minerals. Let’s discover their different types, explore their amazing qualities, and see how they shape our world.

The Basic Definition Of Mineral

Mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic solid with a definite chemical composition and a crystalline structure.

To be classified as a “true” mineral, a substance must be a solid and have a crystalline structure. It must also be a naturally occurring, homogeneous substance with a defined chemical composition. 

Mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic solid
The basic structure of mineral

The earth is composed of mineral elements, either alone or in a myriad of combinations called compounds. It is composed of a single element or compound. By definition, it is a naturally occurring inorganic substance with a definite chemical composition and ordered atomic structure.

Classification Of Mineral

Minerals have been broadly classified into two classes, primary minerals and the secondary ones. One which was formed by igneous process that is from the cooling down of the molten materials called magma, have been put in the primary category, while those formed by other processes have been put in the secondary category.

Primary minerals which occur in the sand fractions of the soil had not undergone any change.

Other primary minerals had been altered to form the secondary minerals. For example, the primary mineral mica had been altered to form the secondary mineral illite.

Some others, for example, olivine, anorthite, hornblende etc., had been completely decomposed, the decomposition products recombined together to form the secondary minerals.

They also may be identified by their crystal structure, physical properties and chemical composition.

Explore more about different types

The Usage Of Mineral

It is used in a wide range of applications related to energy supply, manufacturing and economy.

The uses in energy

We rely on different types of minerals to power our world. Fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas still play a significant role in energy generation.

Uranium powers nuclear power plants, a source of energy with its own set of environmental considerations. As we transition towards cleaner alternatives, renewable energy becomes increasingly important.

Metals like copper and rare earth elements are essential components in solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries, which help us harness the power of the sun, wind, and store energy for later use.

The uses in economy 

In terms of economy, they are used to produce electricity, fuel for transportation, heating for homes and offices and in the manufacture of plastics. It includes coal, oil, natural gas and uranium.

Metals such as iron (as steel) is used in cars or for frames of buildings, copper is used in electrical wiring, lithium in rechargeable batteries, and aluminum in aircraft and to make drink cans. Precious metals are used in jewelry and mobile phones.

It can also includes sand and gravel, brick clay and crushed rock aggregates used to manufacture concrete, bricks and pipes and in building houses and roads.

The uses in industry

Moving on to the industry sector, they are used in a range of industrial applications including the manufacture of chemicals, glass, fertilizers and fillers in pharmaceuticals, plastics and paper.

How They Forms Naturally

Minerals form in a variety of different ways. Some form when salt water evaporates or when chemicals come out of hot fluids. Others are made when hot gasses or molten rock cool or when heat or pressure change pre-existing ones.

Minerals start as atoms moving randomly in a fluid. When the fluid cools, the atoms link together in regular shapes and form a crystal lattice. How large a mineral grows, and its final crystal shape, is determined by temperature, pressure, chemical conditions and available space.

Minerals form in a variety of different ways
The way mineral forms in nature

Cave formations

Water is a liquid mineral that both destroys and creates others. It dissolves minerals to form solutions that can, through evaporation and chemical changes, form new ones. Limestone caves are an example of this.

On its own, water cannot easily dissolve limestone. However, as it moves through the atmosphere and soil it takes on carbon dioxide and becomes a weak acid. This acid eats away the calcium carbonate of the limestone to form caves.

The water, now rich in dissolved limestone, can create crystalline formations in the cave. As water seeps into chambers, carbon dioxide escapes from the solution and calcium carbonate crystallizes to form decorations such as stalagmites, stalactites, columns, flowstone and helictites.

Evaporites

Salt lakes, seas and inland drainage basins contain large amounts of dissolved minerals, leached from surrounding rocks, older evaporite deposits or ocean salts blown inland. Evaporation by the sun concentrates these salty waters until crystals grow.

Volcanism

Volcanoes are vents where molten rocks and hot vapours escape Earth’s interior. The minerals formed depend on temperature and the chemical make-up of the lava and gasses.

Some form in the early hottest stage or as lava becomes solid. Others form from escaping gasses and vapours that react with the colder rims to leave minerals behind. Some of them  also grow in cavities left by escaping steam.

Zeolites

Zeolites are water-bearing alumino-silicate minerals that form during the late stages of volcanic activity in basalts and dolerites. They are common in volcanic regions in eastern Australia.

These grew from solutions in cavities left by escaping gases in volcanic rocks. Zeolites have an internal cage-like framework structure of open channels of specific diameter.

These channels give the minerals remarkable filtering and absorbent properties that allow some atoms and molecules to pass through but block larger ones. 

Hydrothermals 

Magma beneath volcanoes can heat nearby underground water. The heated water carries metals, gasses and sulphur leached from the magma and surrounding rocks.

As the water moves through cracks below the Earth’s surface, it reacts with rocks and dissolves and concentrates chemicals, including metallic and non-metallic elements, and gases.

As the fluids cool, these solutions form ore deposits in cavities and veins, or irregular patches scattered through rocks.

As the metal-rich fluids travel further, they cool and deposit minerals in zones of decreasing temperature, each with their own distinctive suite of minerals, often with calcite and quartz. Many of the world’s gold deposits are hydrothermal.

Metamorphism

Deep below the surface, two of Earth’s ‘cooking agents’, pressure and heat, work together to change minerals in sedimentary and igneous rocks. Sometimes volcanic eruptions bring up them from the dense deeps.

When a heat source bakes rocks, larger crystals or new ones may grow in newly formed rocks such as hornfels, quartzite and marble. This is called contact metamorphism.

When high pressures squeeze and fold rocks over a large area (which also generates heat), new minerals can grow and often line up in bands in new rocks such as slate, schist and gneiss. This is known as regional metamorphism.

Explore about Ground Calcium Carbonate

Environmental Considerations 

While they are indispensable to human civilization, their extraction and utilization can have significant environmental impacts. Mining operations can result in habitat destruction, deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution, threatening ecosystems and biodiversity.

Moreover, the energy-intensive processes involved in extraction and processing contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

To mitigate these environmental impacts, sustainable practices and responsible resource management are essential. 

This includes adopting technologies to reduce energy consumption and emissions, minimizing waste generation through recycling and reuse, and implementing restoration and reclamation efforts to rehabilitate mined areas.

Conclusion

Minerals form the breathtaking landscapes we admire, drive technological progress, and improve our quality of life at every turn. Whether it’s the gems that symbolize beauty or the hidden elements within our smartphones, minerals showcase a remarkable range of properties and uses.

However, as we benefit from the rich bounty of the Earth, we must remember that these resources are finite. We need to be aware of the environmental effects and work continuously to develop sustainable practices.

Having the balance between utilizing these resources and protecting the natural world is one we must carefully maintain. By doing so, we can ensure the enough quantity of mineral to benefit generations to come.

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