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Introduction

 

Minerals are naturally-occurring inorganic substances with a definite chemical composition and physical properties.

 

To understand about minerals more clearly we have to look at the properties of minerals.

  • Minerals are found in the earth and are naturally occurring substances. They are not made by man. They are found in rocks and water.
     
  • Minerals are inorganic - they are not alive and they are not plants or animals.
     
  • Minerals are chemical substances- they are made of elements. Some minerals like gold or silver are made of only one element. Other minerals, like quartz and calcite, are combinations of two or more elements.
     
  • Minerals always have the same chemical makeup. For example, quartz will always consist of one part silicon (an element) two parts oxygen (another element).
     
  • Minerals are usually solid crystals. They have a number of flat surfaces in an orderly arrangement. For example, a crystal of quartz is always hexagonal because of the way the atoms of silicon and oxygen join together.

 

 
A Crystal of Quartz

 

About 2,000 minerals have been found on this earth. Oxygen is part of many minerals. Minerals containing oxygen make up almost half of the earth's crust. Quartz is a common mineral. Other common minerals are feldspar and mica. Many rocks are made of these common minerals.

 

Some minerals are rare and expensive. They are called gems. Diamonds, rubies, and emeralds are good examples of such minerals. Gold and silver are also minerals.

 

Now let us look at a few common minerals so that we understand minerals a little better.

 


Calcite is one of the most common minerals in the upper part of the Earth's crust. This mineral (calcium carbonate) can be white; colourless; grey, pale-yellow or honey-brown. Calcite is commonly used in optical instruments and the manufacture of cement and glass.


 
Quartz (silicon dioxide) is the most common mineral in the earth's crust. It is hard and usually a colorless, transparent crystalline mineral. It is used in the electronic industry and as gems.
 

Salt is a common mineral. Salt can be gathered from salt flats, or dried-up lakes where salt has been left behind.

 

Gold is an element. It is probably the oldest precious metal known to man.



 


Diamond is a mineral composed of pure carbon. It is the hardest naturally occurring substance known; it is also the most popular gemstone. Because of its extreme hardness, diamonds have a number of important industrial applications.
 

Basalt is dark-grey to almost black. It is very hard and fine grained. 
 

 

A few minerals at a glance:
 

Name

Colour

Lustre

Other Properties

Graphite

Black

Metallic

Crystals are rare

Mica

Colourless

Pearly

Flakes into sheets

Halite

Colourless

Glassy

Salty taste

Galena

Gray

Metallic

Crystal Cubes

Calcite

Colourless

Glassy

Crystalline

Magnetite

Black

Dull

Magnetic

Pyrite

Golden

Metallic

Looks like gold

Feldspar

Various

Glassy

Two cleavages

Quartz

Various

Glassy

Round fracture

Corundum

Gray

Glassy

Crystalline

 

  • Minerals are formed as a result of geological processes.
     
  • These minerals are scattered throughout the earth’s rocky crust.
     
  • However they are not evenly distributed. They are concentrated in a particular area or rock formations.
     
  • They can be identified on the basis of their physical properties such as colour, density, hardness and chemical property such as solubility.
     
  • Some minerals are found in areas which are not easily accessible such as the Arctic Ocean bed and Antarctica.
   




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