Understanding the Extraction and Processing of Minerals

A large part of the earth’s crust contains minerals. However, in some places, minerals are present in negligible quantities. Therefore, mining minerals in such places is not viable. Luckily, there are methods to determine which places have economically viable mineral deposits. Categorized as geological processes, these methods are used for finding as well as extracting economically viable mineral deposits.

The deposits come in various shapes and sizes. The two most commonly used methods for extracting/mining minerals are surface mining and underground mining. Let’s take a brief look at both these methods.

Surface Mining

Surface Mining
Surface Mining

Used to mine the metals and minerals present near the earth’s surface, surface mining is a much more economically viable option than underground mining. The three basic types of surface mining are quarry mining, strip mining, and open pit mining. Used to obtain all minerals except coal, open pit mining involves making cuts into the ground and working the area at that depth around the mine’s circumference. Also known as hard rock mining, open pit mining is generally used to mine metal ores such as aluminum, iron, gold, and copper.

Primarily used for extracting coal, strip mining involves the removal of rock and soil above a seam or layer. The removal of the exposed mineral is what follows next. The process is repeated until the exhaustion of the ore. Finally, quarry mining is used to extract the minerals used in granite, clay, sand, and gravel. In order to create the best fracturing, quarry mining starts off by blasting into to rock. Using crushing machines, rocks are reduced further.

Furthermore, they are separated based on size. However, blasting isn’t involved in the mining of ornamental stone. Instead, it involves a method known as broaching. In broaching, rather than using explosives, wedges are put into holes. The process involves hammering the wedges into the holes until the stones come off.

Underground Mining

Underground Mining Loulo Mali
Underground Mining in Loulo Mali

Used to mine valuable minerals and ores, underground mining is more dangerous than surface mining and involves harrowing into the ground to extract the minerals and ores. This method of mining minerals is very different form surface mining. Contrary to the popular belief, underground mining is used to mine a lot more than coal. For example, underground mining is the best way to access gold deposits. When mineral deposits are buried so deep that extracting them with surface mining is simply not possible, companies use underground mining.

There you have it—the ways of extracting and processing minerals. Using the aforementioned information, companies can choose the mining method that suits them best.

 

The Six Most Common Minerals and Their Uses

Lustre and Diaphaneity Minerals
Lustre and Diaphaneity Minerals

These shinny, naturally occurring, crystalline chemical compounds are the basic and important raw materials that are necessary for our social, technological and economic development. All segments of society utilize minerals. You will find minerals in the buildings you work and live in, as well as in the roads you drive on. Minerals are useful to humankind in more than one way. This is the reason their part of our everyday lives. So what are the common minerals and their uses? Let’s find out.

Quartz

Mined in Africa, Quartz is perfect for use in spectrographic and prism lenses as well as in heat-ray lamps. Why? This mineral is transparent in UV light and can turn the polarization light’s plane. Apart from the aforementioned things, quartz is utilized in precision instruments, abrasives, paints, glass, and refractory materials.

Aluminum

Of all the metallic elements in the Earth’s crust, aluminum is the most profuse. Aluminum is primarily extracted from bauxite ore. Usually, bauxite ore is mined in African and Latin American countries such as Brazil, Guinea, Jamaica, and Guyana. The United States does not produce any aluminum and imports it from the aforementioned countries. Aluminum is used in many different industries including building and construction, bottling and canning, packaging, electrical, airplanes, and automobiles.

Bauxite

Usually converted to aluminum, bauxite consists of hydrated aluminum oxides and is a rock mineral. Bauxite is generally mined in Africa. However, mining of bauxite takes place in other places as well such as Australia, South America, and the Caribbean.

Tungsten, tantalum, and tin

The main sources of revenue for the Republic of Congo, tungsten, tantalum and tin are used to manufacture mobile phones and computers (desktops and laptops). These minerals are primarily mined in African countries such as the Republic of Congo.

Copper

Copper is primarily mined in Australia, United States, China, Peru, and Chile. There are many things copper is used in including jewelry, general and consumer products, industrial equipment and machinery, electrical wires and cables, transportation, coins, electronic components, roofing materials, and electrical appliances.

Silver

Silver in primarily mined in Africa. However, mining also takes place in Asia and South America. Silver is used in many things including batteries, wound care bandages, coins, jewelry, medals, cell phone covers, catalytic converter, electronic and electrical devices, photography, silverware, and industrial applications.

There you have—some of the most common minerals and their uses. Using the aforementioned information, individuals, and companies can determine the minerals they need and where to get them from.

The Quest for Platinum

Platinum in Mineral FormPlatinum is an exotic mineral and a very expensive metal. Well-formed crystals of platinum are quite rare as platinum is usually found as a nugget or grain. Pure platinum is unknown in nature and is usually alloyed with other metals like iron, copper, nickel, gold, palladium, iridium, and others. It is a silver-white metal that is malleable and lustrous. It is very resistant to corrosion which makes it useful in both industrial applications and in fine jewelry.

Where to Find the Platinum Mineral

The element platinum is incredibly scarce in most crustal rock. Concentrated areas of platinum can be found in the Earth’s crust. Platinum was first discovered in South Africa in 1906. Currently, the largest known reserves (95%) of platinum are in the Bushveld complex in South Africa. Other areas with some platinum reserves can be found in Russia, Canada, as well as in the United States. High quantities of platinum also exist on the Moon and are also found in meteorites. Native platinum is the primary ore of platinum, but deposits containing the rare platinum arsenide, sperrylite of the pyrite group, have made a big contribution to the world’s limited supply.

History of Platinum

The earliest traces of platinum have been found in gold used in ancient Egyptian tombs and hieroglyphics. Early Egyptian’s knowledge of the metal remains unclear, researchers believe they did not recognize the platinum in their gold.

Platinum was first referred to by Italian humanist Julius Caesar Scaliger that described it as an unknown noble metal found between Panama and Mexico in 1557. At the time, the Spanish thought of it as an impurity they often found in gold and would throw it away. From then until the 18th century, platinum would be studied by various European metallurgists and chemists, including Henrik Sheffer that published one of the first detailed scientific descriptions of the metal calling it “white gold.”

Platinum’s Value

While platinum’s reputation is that of prestige and wealth, often perceived higher than gold, the actual price of platinum is unlike gold, it is quite volatile. In 2008, the price of platinum dropped from $2,252 to $774 per ounce and it is currently less than gold at $1,099 per ounce to gold’s $1,339.

Jeremejevite

JeremejeviteJeremejevite, pronounced ye-REM-ay-ev-ite, is one of the rarest and most expensive gemstones in the world. It is a rare aluminum borate mineral with variable fluoride and hydroxide ions. Its chemical formula is Al6B5O15(F,OH)3.

Aesthetic Beauty

Jeremejevite’s crystal system is hexagonal with a Mohs hardness of 7. This spectacular gem occurs in well-formed, sharply crystallized, prismatic obelisk prisms with lustrous surfaces. Sometimes it appears two-toned with a blue base and white terminations. It can come in white, yellowish, greenish, blue and violet colors as well as clear.

Jeremejevite Locations

Deposits of Jeremejevite have been found in the Erongo mountains in Namibia as well as in the Soktuy Mountains in Russia, the Eifel mountains in Germany, in the Pamir mountains in Tajikistan, and in Madagascar.

Jeremejevite History

Jeremejevite was first discovered in 1883 and named in honor of Russian mineralogist Pavel Vladimirovich Eremeev. The first crystals ever discovered were found in the Soktuy mountains  of the Adun-Cholon Range in Transbaikal, Russia. These first specimens consisted of a couple colorless, prismatic crystals. It wasn’t until 1973 that a second deposit of Jeremejevite was found in Swakopmund, Namibia by a woman that frequently spend her time walking behind her husband’s grader collecting pretty rocks.

These specimens were deep blue and were incorrectly identified as aquamarine. An analysis by the Gemological Institute of America confirmed the specimens were in fact jeremejevite. The third occurrence of the mineral was found in the Eifel mountains in Germany as blue and also yellowish crystals. The last discovery of jeremejevite was in 2001 in the Erongo mountains in Namibia. Other minerals such as aquamarine and tourmaline have been found there as well.

Jeremejevite Matches That of Platinum in Value

Only a small number of jeremejevite crystals have been faceted. This gem is usually purchased as mineral specimens by collectors. Due to its rarity and intrinsic beauty, fine or unique specimens can be quite valuable, costing as much as $2,000 per carat.

Painite

Painite MineralPainite was recognized as a new mineral when it was discovered in a sample in Burma in the 1950s. For decades, only two crystals of this ultra rare mineral were known to exist. Painite was named after its discoverer, British mineralogist Arthur C. D. Pain. No cut gems are currently known. The color of painite varies from dark red to orange-red and brownish. Its color and density closely resembles garnet which means there may be cut gems in existence that have been misidentified as ruby or garnet.

History

Prior to mid-2005, only 25 painites had been found including two that were faceted gemstones. The first painite crystal, weighing 1.7 grams, was donated by Arthur C.D. Pain to the British Museum of Natural History in London. An earlier painite sample was discovered in the British Museum having been misidentified as brown tourmaline with rubies from Mogok, Burma. This sample was found to be painite by electron microprobe analysis in late 2007. A dark, 2.118 gram painite known as Painite #2 is currently on public display in the British Museum. Several painities are in private collections while there rest have been distributed among the British Museum, the Gemological Institute of America, the Smithsonian, the California Institute of Technology, and the Research Laboratory in Lucerne, Switzerland.

In early 2006, a large deposit of painite was found in Burma. The painite crystals however were a thick maroon-brown with a significantly lower value than crystals found previously. This new deposit brought the total number of genuine painites known worldwide to 330.

Gemstones: The Rare, Beautiful, and of Course Expensive

Gem StonesEmbedded deep into the surface of the Earth, in dark caves and narrow fissures, are the gemstones – the crystals that take millions of years to form. It’s a pity that man has been able to find, extract, cut, sell, and wear only a fraction of this natural treasure.

We love diamonds. The rubies, emeralds, and sapphires win our hearts too – but they’re all too common – at least when compared to the ones we’re listing down in this post

The Pink Star Diamond

Pink Star DiamondWe’re talking about the diamond again, but this isn’t any ordinary diamond. The 59.6-carat pink star diamond was quarried in South Africa. This gigantic rare, one-of-a-kind diamond hitched a whopping $83,187,381 on its sale – that’s more than any gemstone was ever sold for.

The Painite

You’d be lucky to find this gemstone in the market. For the longest time, gemologists believed that the painite has only two occurrences – that made it the world’s rarest stone. However, there have been recent discoveries of more painite in Myanmar.

The Musgravite

Once considered extremely rare the Musgravite was initially mined only in Southern Australia. Luckily for us, more of this gem has been discovered in Antarctica, Greenland, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Madagascar – but the reserves are still extremely limited.

The Jadeite

This is not jade, neither should be confused as one. The Jadeite is rare and far more valuable. This particular stone’s reserves are primarily found in Myanmar. The best of them are usually deep and clear green.

The Alexandrite

Originally thought to be extracted only from the Ural Mountain, this stone although still rare, can now be found in Brazil, Sri Lanka, and East Africa. The color changing gemstone takes its name Tsar Alexander II.

The Red Beryl

Who said the emerald has to be green? The classic American Red Beryl is rare and scarlet – and it’s an emerald! The gemstone reserves are found in the Wah Wah Mountains in Utah. The red beryl is expensive too – about a 1,000 times more than gold.

The Benitoite

The Benitoite is another American beauty! The largest deposits of this gemstone are found in San Benito, California. The gem is, however, also found in Arkansas and Japan. The stone is rare and you’d be lucky to find one bigger than a carat.

The Black Opal

The opal itself may not be rare, but the black opal with specks of different bright colors is a rare beauty. The stone can be found in New South Wales, Australia.

The Taaffeite

Taaffeite, pronounced as ‘Taar-fite’ has only a few findings to its name. They were found by an Australian geologist in Tanzania and Sri Lanka.

The Tanzanite

Found only in Tanzania that too particularly in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, the blueish-purple stone is extremely limited in supply and thus, rare. The total population of this stone just might deplete in the next 2 decades.

So how many of these were you already familiar with?

 

Five Useful Minerals Found on Earth

Minerals are inorganic substances that are naturally found on planet Earth and we as humans are blessed to have a planet where these resources are found in abundance. According to the International Mineralogical Association (IMA), there are 4660 types of mineral species found on Earth. Doesn’t that sound amazing? So, for informational purposes, here is a list of some common minerals that are found in abundance on our lovely planet:

Aluminum

Aluminum is one of the most abundant minerals that is found in the crust of the Earth as it covers 8.2% of the Earth’s crust. This is the most common type of material that is used in construction, building, transportation, electrical machinery and packaging. The best form of aluminum is found and imported from Guyana, Guinea, Brazil and Jamaica.

Copper

If you look around yourself, you will see countless things made up of copper. Copper is again a naturally occurring mineral having a definite chemical structure and composition. This mineral also holds a distinct part in history by being the very first element that was discovered by humans. It covers 6.8% of the Earth’s crust and is used widely in construction of buildings, manufacturing of electronic products such as wires, switches, heating and plumbing and other transportation activities. Nowadays, copper is also used in several medical equipments as well. This mineral is mostly found in Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Peru, China, New Mexico and Australia.

Gold

Gold is considered as one of the most valuable minerals on Earth. This mineral is used in making jewelries, medicines, artwork and even dentistry. Additionally, this mineral is also used as the standard currency. Thus, the worth of gold cannot be understated. Gold, in its natural mineral form, has traces of silver, iron and copper. In addition to being a very valuable mineral, gold is also one of the heaviest minerals found on our planet. Moreover, gold is a resistant metal as it does not discolor, tarnish or crumble like other minerals.

Clay

Next in the list comes clay, which is mostly used as an absorbent. You will see many things around you which are made of clay, from pottery to clay huts to name a few. Produced in 40 states, it is among the minerals that have a number of possible uses. It has a variety of types, such as bentonite, ball clay, pet waste absorbent, kaolin, iron ore and many others. Most commonly, clay is used in the making of bricks, ceramics and cement and is used in making plastics, rubber, paint and paper. Nowadays, clay is also being used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetic brands and even some food items.

Carbonates

Carbonates are a group of minerals that are widely used in environments where carbon dioxide is present. This form of mineral is very common in sedimentary environments and act as a raw mineral in a variety of industries. Its products are used in the paper and steel industry and in addition to that, the calcium that we get in the medicines is a result of such carbonates.

We should be thankful to nature for providing us with such useful minerals to use in a number of different ways. We really hope that you found this information to be very useful. For more interesting information, stay tuned!

Tridymite found on Mars

Mineral Tridymite
The Mineral Tridymite

The mineral tridymite is a very rare polymorph of the mineral quartz. It is grouped with silica and tectosilicates. Tridymite is knowns for its unusual crystals which are small and appear as thin tabular plates. They usually form small growths of two or three thin individuals, forming unusual and distinctive twins or trillings. Tridymite can occur as small grains as well as complex icicle-like formations. Tridymite crystallizes at low pressure and high temperatures in excess of 1,472 degree F. As far as we know, it is only associated with temperatures and conditions seen in silicic volcanism – volcanoes with magma containing a large proportion of silica.

For the past few years, the Curiosity rover has been exploring a crater on Mars. Just last year in 2015, the rover was exploring an area called Marias Pass. The rover drilled into the surface of Mars and found something entirely unexpected, the tridymite mineral. The rover used its laser-firing instrument to examine compositions of samples using the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam). An analysis of this find was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science can change our entire understanding of Mars’ history.

The volcanic processes seen in silicic volcanism occur as a result of plate tectonics and flowing water on Earth, neither of which are found on Mars. It is now a possibility that Mars had much more water on its surface than previously thought and it was a much more geologically active planet. The scientific community will now be involved in studies that analyze ways on how tridymite can form on a geological level in a basaltic environment with lower temperatures.

 

A Guide to Mineral Collecting

As a hobby, mineral collecting is over 500 years old, evolving from he era of gentlemen naturalists to the present era dominated by ineral quality. The mineral collecting in 2016 vastly differs from the first golden age of mineral collecting that marked the 50s and 60s, when ‘rock hounding’ became an immensely popular past time.  But today, the quality of minerals is considered of supreme importance, a factor that can never be neglected. An extraordinary number of mineral discoveries have been made since 1980; Merelan Tanzanite, Red Cloud Wulfenite and the incredible Aquamarine crystals to name a few.

Avid mineral collectors may be driven by passion, a piqued interest in geology or a profession in mineralogy to collect particular minerals. But whatever the reason, they all have one thing in common; having a collection to proudly boast, holding exhibits and fulfilling their mineral-collecting goals. Here’s how you can accomplish it all:

Be a Specialized Collector

With more than 3,000 minerals existing in nature, it is not possible to collect them all!

Many collectors follow the collection method of specialized collection. So, if you are a beginner, make sure you choose a category of minerals (based on locality, properties, crystal group or variances) to collect and be a specialized collector.

And if you are already a specialized collector, then you are on the right track. Bravo!

Get your Tools Together

The importance of possessing the right tools for a mineral collector can’t be stressed enough. When you know the right tools to take with you on your trips, you will surely be rewarded with success. Your tools should include the following:

  • Hammers (sledge, geologist’s, crack and splitting hammer)
  • Portable diamond saw (to extract crystals from broad rock faces)
  • Heavy duty paint brush to dust specimens
  • Pocket tools (may use screw drivers, chisels, ice picks)
  • Personal protection equipment (gloves, safety glasses, etc.)

Organize your Collection

Organizing and displaying your collection is of paramount significance. You can go for thumbnail and micromount specimens, about 1 inch or less in size. As tiny crystals have almost perfect crystallization, you can easily view the crystal through microscope. Such small specimens are kept in plastic boxes, are affordable and take up less space.

Irrespective of the size, you can store your minerals in well-lit glass viewing cabinets, organized drawers or specialized cardboard boxes. Always label your rocks with an index card, mentioning the type and locality of the mineral.  

Acquire the Services of Mineral Dealerships

Well, you have to admit, everyone comes across dead ends.  There might be a particular rare mineral that you are looking for without any luck so far. Our advice? Acquire the services of mineral dealerships that not only provide rare rocks from all over the world but also custom services such as display cases, curatorial services, mineral photography, provenance research, etc. Your collection will definitely reach new heights!

New Type of Carbon Created

Graphite, the kind you find in your pencil, is made from pure carbon. It has been used in its natural form as far back as the Neolithic Age. Diamonds are also made from carbon, a highly organized carbon which is less stable than graphite. Diamonds are known as one of the hardest minerals because of the strong bonding between its atoms.  Other than diamond and graphite, other polymorphs of carbon include lonsdalite and chaoite.

At the end of last year however, a new member has joined this carbon family : the Q-carbon. Researchers at North Carolina State University have made a new form of carbon, which is also the third solid state of carbon. This new carbon is believed to exist naturally in the core of planets, including our own.

Researchers are very excited because they have also found success in synthesizing single crystals of Q-carbon at room temperature and pressure. Natural diamonds form at very high temperatures and pressures deep in the Earth’s mantle and grow over periods from 1 to 3 billion years.

The temporarily named Q-carbon has some interesting and new properties. For one, it is ferromagnetic, which neither graphite or diamond are. “Q-carbon’s strength and its willingness to release electrons make it very promising for developing new electronic display technologies,” said lead researcher Jay Narayan. Q-carbon is also harder than diamond and glows brightly when exposed to low levels of energy. It also conducts electricity better than diamond and can be made into microscopic single-crystal objects called nanodots. Narayan is hopeful this cheaper, easier to produce Q-carbon can be used in high-precision medical techniques  and other industries. It will take some time to to learn more about Q-carbon and its properties but the future looks promising!

Howard Fensterman Minerals