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Note that there are thousands of minerals on our planet. Listed above are some of the ones with common industrial uses.

See a glossary of Mining Terms

See List of Minerals with detailed information at


(Cu), chemical element, reddish, extremely ductile metal of Group Ib of the periodic table, unusually good conductor of electricity and heat. Copper is found in the free metallic state in nature; this native copper was first used (c. 8000 BC) as a substitute for stone by Neolithic man. Metallurgy dawned in Egypt as copper was cast to shape in molds (c. 4000 BC), was reduced to metal from ores with fire and charcoal, and was intentionally alloyed with tin as bronze (c. 3500 BC). The Roman supply of copper came almost entirely from Cyprus; it was known as aes Cyprium, "metal of Cyprus," shortened to cyprium and later corrupted to cuprum


also called SILICON DIOXIDE, compound of the two most abundant elements in the Earth's crust, silicon and oxygen, SiO2. The mass of the Earth's crust is 59 percent silica, the main constituent of more than 95 percent of the known rocks. Silica has three main crystalline varieties: quartz (by far the most abundant), tridymite, and cristobalite. Other varieties include coesite, keatite, and lechatelierite. Silica sand is used in buildings and roads in the form of portland cement, concrete, and mortar, as well as sandstone. Silica also is used in grinding and polishing glass and stone; in foundry molds; in the manufacture of glass, ceramics, silicon carbide, ferrosilicon, and silicones; as a refractory material; and as gemstones.


sedimentary rock composed mainly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), usually in the form of calcite or aragonite. It may contain considerable amounts of magnesium carbonate (dolomite) as well; minor constituents also commonly present include clay, iron carbonate, feldspar, pyrite, and quartz. Most limestones have a granular texture. Their constituent grains range in size from 0.001 mm (0.00004 inch) to visible particles. In many cases, the grains are microscopic fragments of fossil animal shells. Limestone has two origins: (1) biogenic precipitation from sea water (autochthonous limestone), the primary agents being lime-secreting organisms and foraminifera; and (2) mechanical transport and deposition of preexisting limestones (allochthonous limestone), forming clastic deposits. Limestone has long fascinated earth scientists because of its rich fossil content. Much knowledge of the Earth's chronology and development has been derived from the study of fossils embedded in limestone and other carbonate rocks. Limestone also has considerable commercial importance. Limestones enriched in phosphate by the chemical action of ocean waters constitute a principal source of raw materials for the fertilizer industry. When heated to temperatures of 900¼ to 1,000¼ C (1,650¼ to 1,800¼ F), limestones will dissociate calcium carbonate and yield carbon dioxide and lime, the latter having major applications in the manufacture of glass and in agriculture. Certain varieties of limestone also serve as a building stone; they are widely used for flooring, exterior and interior facings, and monuments.


common sulfate mineral of great commercial importance, composed of hydrated calcium sulfate (CaSO4 2H2O). In well-developed crystals the mineral commonly has been called selenite. The fibrous massive variety has a silky lustre and is called satin spar; it is translucent and opalescent and is valued for ornaments and jewelry. The fine-grained massive variety called alabaster is carved and polished for statuary and ornamental use when pure and translucent. Gypsite is the earthy pulverulent variety. Gypsum occurs in extensive beds associated with other evaporite minerals (e.g., anhydrite and halite), particularly in Permian and Triassic sedimentary formations; it is deposited from ocean brine, followed by anhydrite and halite. It also occurs in considerable quantity in saline lakes and salt pans and is an important constituent of cap rock, an anhydrite-gypsum rock forming a covering on salt domes, as in Texas and Louisiana. Very commonly it is formed from the hydration of anhydrite by surface waters and groundwaters; thus, many gypsiferous strata grade downward into anhydrite rocks. This replacement causes a 30 percent to 50 percent volume increase and results in intense, tight folding of the remaining anhydrite layers. Gypsum also occurs disseminated in limestones, dolomitic limestones, and some shales. Gypsum deposits occur in many countries, but the United States, Canada, France, Italy, and Great Britain are among the leading producers. In the U.S., commercial sedimentary gypsum deposits occur in New York and Michigan; others of economic importance occur in Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Nevada, and southern California. In Canada, gypsum is produced for export in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In France, gypsum is common in the marls and clays of the Paris basin (hence the name plaster of paris), especially in Montmartre. Crude gypsum is used as a fluxing agent, fertilizer, filler in paper and textiles, and retarder in portland cement. About three-fourths of the total production is calcined for use as plaster of paris and as building materials in plaster, Keene's cement, board products, and tiles and blocks. Gypsum plaster is a white cementing material made by partial or complete dehydration of the mineral gypsum, commonly with special retarders or hardeners added. Applied in a plastic state (with water), it sets and hardens by chemical recombination of the gypsum with water. For especially hard finish plaster, the gypsum is completely dehydrated at a high temperature, and such chemicals as alkali sulfate, alum, or borax are added. Hair or fibre and lime or clay may be added to the plasters during manufacture. The plaster coats, except for some finish coats, are sanded.


also spelled POZZUOLANA, or Pozzolan, hydraulic cement discovered by the Romans and still used in some countries, made by grinding pozzolana (a type of slag that may be either natural--i.e., volcanic--or artificial, from a blast furnace) with powdered hydrated lime. Roman engineers used two parts by weight of pozzolana mixed with one part of lime to give strength to mortar and concrete in bridges and other masonry and brickwork. During the 3rd century BC, the Romans used pozzolana instead of sand in concrete and mortared rubblework, giving extraordinary strength. Used with an aggregate of broken tuff, travertine, brick, or marble, the material contributed to the evolution of new architectural forms in such monumental constructions as the Pantheon and the Baths of Caracalla at Rome. Pozzolana was first found at Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli), near Naples, where there are still extensive beds, and also around Rome. Natural pozzolana is composed mainly of a fine, chocolate-red volcanic earth. An artificial pozzolana has been developed that combines a fly ash and water-quenched boiler slag.


white, glassy silicate mineral that commonly occurs as masses or tabular crystals with other calcium-containing silicates (e.g., diopside, tremolite, garnet, and epidote) in metamorphosed limestones. Deposits are found in Ciclova Rom”na, Rom.; Monte Somma, Italy; and Pargas, Fin. Occurrences in the United States include Utah; Isle Royale, Mich.; Riverside, Calif.; and Essex county, N.Y., where it is mined. For detailed physical properties, see silicate mineral (table). Wollastonite, the most common of the three forms of calcium silicate, CaSiO3, is used in many ceramic products, including floor and wall tiles, electrical insulators, and porcelain fixtures. It is also used in welding rod coatings and in paints.





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