Uses of Minerals

Aluminum – (Bauxite) – The most abundant metal element in the Earth’s 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 – 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 preparations.

Cadmium – Plating and alloying; pigments, plastics and batteries.

Cement – Building materials, stucco and mortar.

Cesium – Electronic, medical and chemical applications.

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, fuller’s earth, absorbent and filtering, insecticide dispersing, common clay, construction, cosmetics.

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.

Copper – (Chrysocolla) – 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 polishing abrasive.

Diamond (Industrial) – (Kimberlite) – Machinery, mineral services, stone and ceramic products, abrasives, construction, drilling, transportation equipment.

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.

Fluorite – (Fluorspar) – 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 fluoridation.

Gallium – Used in the electronics industry.

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 hardener; pencils.

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 Michigan.

Kyanite – Used in smelting and processing ferrous (iron) metals, nonferrous metals, glass and ceramics.

Lead – (Galena) – 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 steel production.

Magnesium – Used in cement, rubber, paper, insulation, chemicals and fertilizers, animal feed and pharmaceuticals.

Mercury – (Cinnabar) – 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.

Quartz – (silica) – 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 precision instruments.

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 lead-free gasoline.

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.

Silver – (Tetrahedrite) – 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 figurines.

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 Wyoming.

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 lotions.

Zirconium – Used in foundry sands

Source: Mineral Information Institute; U.S. Geological Survey