Uses of Minerals
(Bauxite) The most abundant metal element in the Earths crust. Bauxite ore is
the main source of aluminum and is imported from Guinea, Australia, Jamaica, etc. Used in
automotive and airplanes (36%), bottling and canning industries (25%); kitchen cookware
and foil; building and electrical (14%); personal products, like deodorants.
Antimony A native element;
antimony metal is extracted from stibnite and other minerals. Used as a lead hardener for
storage batteries and cable sheaths; used as an alloy and in flame-retardant formulations.
Arsenic A by-product of mining.
Cotton production; wood preservatives.
Asbestos Can be readily
separated into thin, strong fibers that are flexible, heat resistant and chemically inert,
asbestos minerals are used in fireproof fabrics, yarn, cloth and paper and paint filler.
Friction products, asbestos cement pipes and sheets, coatings and compounds, packing and
gaskets, roofing and flooring products, paints and caulking and chemical filters. Fibers
are dangerous when breathed, so uses must protect against fibers becoming airborne.
Basalt is an extrusive igneous rock. Extrusive means that it solidified after flowing onto
the surface of the earth. Basalt is used in many of the same ways as granite. It is
suitable for railroad ballast, for asphalt and road aggregate in highway construction.
Barium (Barite) Used as
a heavy additive in oil well drilling mud, paints, rubber, plastic and paper; production
of barium chemicals and glass manufacturing.
Beryllium Industrial and
nuclear defense applications, used in light, very strong alloys for aircraft industry.
Beryllium salts are used in X-ray tubes and as a deoxidizer in bronze metallurgy. The
gemstones of beryl are emerald and aquamarine.
Bismuth Is a by-product of ore
processing, used in chemicals, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Boron Used primarily in the
manufacture of different types of glass (Pyrex).
Bromine Used in leaded
gasoline; fire extinguishers and retardants; well completion fluids and sanitary
Plating and alloying; pigments, plastics and batteries.
Cement Building materials,
stucco and mortar.
Cesium Electronic, medical and
Chromium Stainless and
heat-resistant steel, full-alloy steel, super alloys and other alloys.
Clays Kaolin, paper,
refractories, rubber, ball clay, dinnerware and pottery, floor and wall tile, sanitary
wear, fire clay, firebricks, foundry sands, bentonite, drilling mud, iron ore pelletizing,
fullers earth, absorbent and filtering, insecticide dispersing, common clay,
Coal Technically, coal is not
really a mineral. It should be considered a black or brownish-black rock of organic
origin. It is a "fossil-fuel", just like petroleum and natural gas. There are
four principal types of coal. Listed in order of lowest to highest heating value, they are
Lignite, Subbituminous, Bituminous and Anthracite. Coals are used for fuel, space heating
and electricity generation.
Cobalt Used in superalloys for
jet engine parts, cutting tools and electrical devices, permanent magnets, catalysts;
pigments and dryers for paints and allied products.
Columbium (Niobium) Used
mostly as an additive in structural steels and in superalloys; used in metallurgy for heat
resistant alloys, rust-proofing (stainless steel) and electromagnetic superconductors.
Used in electric cables and wires and building construction, switches, plumbing, heating
and electrical and electronic components, industrial machinery and equipment,
transportation, consumer and general products, coins, and jewelry. Leading producers are
Chile and the U.S.
Corundum and Emery Grinding and
Diamond (Industrial) (Kimberlite) Machinery,
mineral services, stone and ceramic products, abrasives, construction, drilling,
Diatomite Is a siliceous
product organically produced by diatoms. A diatom is a single-celled organism found in
fresh and salt water that under ideal conditions could divide every 8 hours. The external
skeletons of these creatures are made of silica. Primarily used for filtration, but new
applications are continuously being found in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceutical
applications and environmental cleanup technologies.
Dolomite (Lime) Is the
near-twin sister rock to limestone. Like limestone, it forms in a marine environment.
Dolomite is used in agriculture, chemical and industrial applications; cement
construction, refractories, and environmental industries.
Feldspar A rock forming mineral; industrially important in glass and ceramic
industries; pottery, porcelain and enamelware; soaps; bond for abrasive wheels; cement and
glues; insulating compositions; fertilizer; tarred roofing materials; and as a sizing, or
filler, in textiles and paper applications.
Used in production of hydrofluoric acid, which is used in pottery, ceramics, optical,
electroplating and plastics industries. In the metallurgical treatment of bauxite; as a
flux in open-hearth steel furnaces and in metal smelting; in carbon electrodes; emery
wheels; electric arc welders; toothpaste as a source of fluorine and in water
Gallium Used in the electronics
Garnet Used in water
filtration, finishing wood furniture, electronic components, ceramics, glass, jewelry and
abrasives in transport manufacturing.
Germanium A by-product of
refining base metal ores. Fiber optics and infrared lenses.
Gold Used in dentistry and
medicine; in jewelry and arts; in medallions and coins; in ingots as a store of value; for
scientific and electronic instruments; computer circuitry; as an electrolyte in the
electroplating industry; in many applications for space travel.
Granite - Granite is an intrusive
igneous rock. Intrusive means that it solidified while still buried deep within the earth.
Granite can be cut into large blocks and used as a building stone. When polished it is
used for monuments, headstones, statues and facing on buildings. It is also suitable for
railroad ballast, for asphalt and road aggregate in highway construction.
Graphite Dry lubricant; steel
Gypsum Processed and used as a
prefabricated wallboard or an industrial or building plaster; used in cement manufacture;
agriculture and other uses.
Halite (sodium chloride
salt) Used in human and animal diet, food seasoning and food preservation. To
prepare sodium hydroxide, soda ash, caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, chlorine, metallic
sodium; used in ceramic glazes; metallurgy, curing of hides; mineral waters; soap
manufacture; home water softeners; highway deicing; photography; in scientific equipment
for optical parts.
Indium By-product of zinc
refining. Used in alloys and instruments.
Iodine A by-product of seaweed
soda ash, Goiter treatment, antiseptic and photographic applications.
Iron Ore Used to manufacture
steels of various types. Used in metallurgy products; magnets; high-frequency cores; auto
parts; catalyst and many other applications. Most U.S. production is from Minnesota and
Kyanite Used in smelting and
processing ferrous (iron) metals, nonferrous metals, glass and ceramics.
Transportation, batteries, gasoline additives, construction, ammunition, TV tubes, nuclear
shielding, ceramics; ballast or weight; tubes or containers. U.S. is largest producer
(mainly from Missouri), consumer and recycler of lead metal.
Limestone Limestone is a
sedimentary rock and composed of calcium carbonate. Limestone, along with dolomite, is one
of the basic building blocks of the construction industry. Limestone is used as aggregate,
building stone, cement, lime, as fluxes, glass raw material, refractories, fillers,
abrasives, soil conditioners, and ingredients in a host of chemical processes.
Lithium Compounds are used in
ceramics and glass; in primary aluminum potlines and production; in the manufacture of
lubricants and greases; rocket propellants; silver solder; batteries; and medicine.
Manganese Essential to iron and
Magnesium Used in cement,
rubber, paper, insulation, chemicals and fertilizers, animal feed and pharmaceuticals.
Electrical, electrolytic production of chlorine and caustic soda, paint, industrial and
control instruments (thermometers and thermostats).
Mica Mica commonly occurs as
flakes, scales or shreds. Sheet muscovite (white) mica is used in electronic insulators;
ground mica in paints, as joint cement, as a dusting agent, in well-drilling mud and
lubricants; and in plastics, roofing, rubber and welding rods.
Molybdenum Used in alloy steels
(475 of all uses) to make automotive parts, construction equipment, gas transmission
pipes; stainless steels (21%); tool steels (9%); cast irons (7%); and chemical lubricants
(8%). As a pure metal, molybdenum is used because of its high melting temperatures (4,730
F) as filament supports in light bulbs, metalworking dies and furnace parts.
Nickel Vital as an alloy to
stainless steel; plays a key roll in the chemical and aerospace industries. Leading
producers are Canada, Norway and Russia.
Oil Shale Source of oil for
fuel; used in plastics, , synthetic fabrics, lubricants, etc.
Perlite Expanded perlite is
used in roof insulation boards; as fillers, filter aids and for horticulture.
Phosphate rock Used to produce
phosphoric acid ammoniated phosphate fertilizers, feed additives for livestock, elemental
phosphorus, and a variety of phosphate chemicals for industrial and home consumers. U.S.
production is from Florida, North Carolina, Idaho and Utah.
Platinum Group Metals (PGMs)
Includes platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and ruthenium. Commonly occur
together in nature and are among the scarcest of the metallic elements. Platinum is used
principally in catalysts for the control of automobile and industrial plant emissions; in
jewelry; and in catalysts to produce acids, organic chemicals and pharmaceuticals; an in
dental alloys used for making crowns and bridges.
Potash Carbonate of potassium;
used as a fertilizer, in medicine, in the chemical industry and to produce decorative
color effects on brass, bronze and nickel.
Pyrite Used in the manufacture
of sulfur, sulfuric acid and sulfur dioxide; pellets of pressed pyrite dust are used to
recover iron, gold, copper, cobalt, and nickel.
As crystal, quartz is used as a semiprecious gemstone. Crystalline varieties include
amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, smoky quartz, etc. Because of its piezoelectric
properties, quartz is used for pressure gauges, oscillators, resonators and wave
stabilizers. Also used in manufacturing of glass, paints, abrasives, refractories and
Quartzite Quartzite is the
metamorphic offspring of sandstone. Quartzite is typically very hard rock, which makes it
useful for building stone material, and the construction industry.
Rhenium Used in producing
Rubidium Used in electronics,
chemicals and electrical power generators.
Sandstone Concrete for
highways, bridges, dams, waterworks and airports; road bases and coverings, construction
fill, asphaltic concrete, aggregates and other bituminous mixtures; railroad ballast, snow
and ice control.
Selenium Used in photocopiers,
glass, antidandruff shampoos, steels and animal feeds.
Silica Used in manufacture of
computer chips, glass and refractory materials; ceramics; abrasives; water filtration;
component of hydraulic cements; filler in cosmetics, pharmaceutical, paper, insecticides;
anti-caking agent in foods; flatting agent in paint; thermal insulator.
Silicon Used in iron, steel,
and aluminum; chemical and electronic industries.
Used in photography, chemistry; in electrical and electronic products because of its very
high conductivity; sterling silverware, electroplated ware, jewelry and coins, brazing
alloys and solders.
Strontium Used in color TV
tubes; pyrotechnic materials; magnets.
Sulfur Widely used in
manufacturing processes; drugs, fertilizers.
Talc (Soapstone) The
primary use for talc is in the production of paper. Ground talc is used as filler in
ceramics, paint, paper, roofing, plastics, cosmetics, and in agriculture. You will find
talc in many household products such as baby (talcum) powder, deodorant, and makeup. Very
pure talc is used in fine arts, and is called soapstone. It is often used to carve
Tantalum Used in electronic
components, transportation, chemical equipment and metal working machinery.
Tellurium Used as an alloy with
steel and copper.
Thallium Used in electronics
and as an alloy.
Tin Cans and containers,
solder, electrical, chemicals.
Titanium A metal used mostly in
jet engines, airframes and space and missile applications. In powdered form I is used as a
white pigment for paints, paper, plastics, rubber and other materials.
Trona (sodium carbonate or soda
ash) Used in glass container manufacture; in fiberglass and specialty glass; also
used in production of flat glass; in liquid detergents; in medicine; as a food additive;
photography; cleaning and boiler compounds; pH control of water. Trona is mined mainly in
Tungsten Used in steel
production and in metalworking; cutting applications; construction and electrical
machinery and equipment; in transportation equipment; as filament in light bulbs; as a
carbide in drilling equipment; in heat and radiation shielding; textile dyes, enamels,
paints and for coloring glass.
Uranium Radioactive ores used
in nuclear defense system and used for nuclear generation of electricity, nuclear medicine
and x-rays, atomic dating and electronic instruments.
Vanadium Used in metal alloys
(titanium alloys important for aerospace); as a catalyst for production of malefic
anhydride and sulfuric acid; as target material for x-rays.
Vermiculite Insulation; soil
conditioner and fertilizer carrier.
Zeolites Used in aquaculture
(fish hatcheries for removing ammonia from the water); water softener; in catalysts; cat
litter; odor control; and for removing radioactive ions from nuclear plant effluent.
Zinc (Sphalerite) Used
as protective coating on steel, as die casting, as an alloying metal with copper to make
brass, and as chemical compounds in rubber and paint. Used as sheet zinc and for
galvanizing iron; electroplating; metal spraying; automotive parts; electrical fuses;
anodes; dry cell batteries; nutrition; chemicals; roof gutters; cable wrapping; organ
pipes and pennies. Zinc oxide is used in medicine, paints, vulcanizing rubber and sunblock
Zirconium Used in foundry sands
Source: Mineral Information Institute;
U.S. Geological Survey