Uses of Rocks & Minerals
We have made use of rocks and minerals from the very beginning of time. If you look at how we named the eras of human development, STONE AGE, COPPER AGE, BRONZE AGE and IRON AGE, it is obvious how important rocks and minerals have been to us all. For more information of how we used rocks and minerals throughout history, click here:
In MODERN TIMES, since about 1700 CE (or 400 years ago) we have been using rocks and minerals at an ever increasing rate as we build machines, cities and consume a great number of "things" in a lifetime. We use things made from rocks and minerals every day. If something doesn't come from a plant or an animal, it has to be mined. According to the Mineral Information Institute, it is estimated that in a lifetime, a person living in North America will use up the following quantity of rocks and minerals:
- lead - 365 kg
- aluminum - 1633 kg
- zinc - 340 kg
- iron - 14 863 kg
- copper - 680 kg
- clays - 12 068 kg
- salt - 12 824 kg (because of all of that road salt during our cold winters!)
- stone, sand, gravel & cement - 562-773 kg
Once people learned how to use tools, buildings and cities began to get bigger and more elaborate. Stones and rocks were the first building blocks use to make structures and even today they are the most important source for building materials after wood.
ARTIFACTS, MACHINES & TOOLS
Many things that we use every day such as pens, filing cabinets, computers, coat hangers, cooking pots are made of minerals. Pop cans and cars use a lot of metal. That is why they should be recycled once we no longer need them. Metal is made of minerals and is durable. Many structures, tools, equipment and some furniture is made of metal.
Many machines and tools are made of metals which are a type of mineral. The process for making metals also involves any other minerals in the smelting and refining process. Cars, planes and boats use many different kinds of minerals.
DECORATIONS & JEWELLERY
People have been compelled to create decorations from items found in nature since time began. Many rocks and minerals are beautiful and therefore decorative items such as vases, boxes, statues are made from them. Many sculptures are made of marble, alabaster, soapstone, agate and jade.
People have always adorned themselves with jewellery – using precious metals such as gold and silver and precious and semi-precious stones. People have always appreciated beauty and rocks and minerals are some of the most beautiful things found in nature.
We consume or use up rocks & minerals every day. The salt on our food is a mineral. The gritty substance in our toothpaste is pumice. The grit on our sandpaper is crushed garnets. In order to make the many things that we use, factories require special minerals to process raw materials into finished products. The reason Canada consumes the most salt (per person) of any country in the world is because we have many long roads and a lot of snow in the winter. We use a lot of salt on our roads and sidewalks to keep us safe.