“If it can’t be grown, it has to be mined.”
Many of our everyday items come from minerals that are mined and are then made into products. Certain minerals we use every day go through a process of discovery and extraction. These natural mineral resources are found in the Earth’s crust. Concentrations of these mineral resources profitable to extract are found in just a few specific areas due to unique geologic characteristics.
Natural resources are useful materials found on and beneath Earth’s surface. A variety of natural resources are used every day. Food and water are both natural resources. Other resources include soil, trees, and rocks and minerals. Materials extracted from mineral resources important to modern technological societies are not uniformly distributed across the planet (e.g., oil in the Middle East, gold in Nevada).
Minerals are the basic materials which make up the Earth's crust. Most rocks are combinations of minerals. A mineral can be either a chemical element or a chemical compound and is defined as a natural, inorganic, crystalline solid.
Each mineral has its own characteristic chemical composition and can be identified by its properties. These properties, which include hardness, crystalline structure, luster, and color, are a result of the way the atoms in a particular mineral are held together.
Most elements exist in Earth’s crust at concentrations too low to be mined, but in specific locations—where geological processes have concentrated them—extraction is economically viable. Concentrations of mineral resources profitable to extract are called mineral deposits. Mineral deposits form when a special set of circumstances happen on or beneath the Earth’s surface.
How are natural mineral resources extracted? Mining is one way to extract minerals from the Earth. Once the minerals are mined, they usually must be processed to extract the useful materials that we use every day.
The Geology for Investors website is a source of information about why mineral deposits are where they are. The link takes you to the page, “Minerals on the Edge – Plate Boundaries and Minerals.” This provides a basic understanding of how minerals become concentrated where they do. This is under the “Geology” tab. There is also a choice called “Ore Deposits”. This page lists different mining sites and describes how the minerals became concentrated in those locations. Another tab, “Mining”, gives additional information about issues around mining such as challenges and value.