See J. L. Gillson, Industrial Minerals and Rocks (1960); C. S. Hurlbut, Jr., Minerals and Man (1968); B. Mason and L. G. Berry, Elements of Mineralogy (1968); C. J. Morrissey, ed., Mineral Specimens (1968); J. D. Dana, Manual of Mineralogy (18th ed., rev. by C. S. Hurlbut, Jr., 1971); K. Frye, ed., The Encyclopedia of Mineralogy (1982).
Pyrite from Butte, Mont.
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Any of a large group of silicon-oxygen compounds that are widely distributed throughout much of the solar system. The silicates make up about 95percnt of the Earth's crust and upper mantle, occurring as the major constituents of most igneous rocks and in appreciable quantities in sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. They also are important constituents of lunar samples, meteorites, and most asteroids. In addition, planetary probes have detected them on the surfaces of Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Of the approximately 600 known silicate minerals, only the feldspars, amphiboles, pyroxenes, micas, olivines, feldspathoids, and zeolites are significant in rock formation.
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Any of the forms of silicon dioxide (SiO2), including quartz, tridymite, cristobalite, coesite, stishovite, melanophlogite, lechatelierite, and chalcedony. Various kinds of silica minerals have been produced synthetically.
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Any naturally occurring inorganic compound with a structure based on close-packed oxygen atoms in which smaller, positively charged metal or other ions occur. Oxide minerals are common in all rock types, whether igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.
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Mechanical treatment of crude ores to separate the valuable minerals. Mineral processing was at first applied only to ores of precious metals but later came to be used to recover other metals and nonmetallic minerals. It is also used during coal preparation to enrich the value of raw coal. The primary operations are comminution and concentration. Comminution is carried out by large jaw crushers and by smaller cylindrical grinding mills. Common methods of concentration are gravity separation and flotation separation. Gravity methods include jigging (ground ore is fed into a pulsating body of water so that the heavier mineral fractions settle out, leaving lighter wastes at the top) or washing the ore down inclined planes, spirals, or shaking tables so that mineral and waste fractions settle in different areas. Seealso beneficiation; mining.
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Any of a class of materials of biologic origin occurring within the Earth's crust that can be used as a source of energy. Fossil fuels include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. They all contain carbon and were formed as a result of geologic processes acting on the remains of (mostly) plants and animals that lived and died hundreds of millions of years ago. All fossil fuels can be burned to provide heat, which may be used directly, as in home heating, or to produce steam to drive a generator for the production of electricity. Fossil fuels supply nearly 90percnt of all the energy used by industrially developed nations.
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Any naturally occurring homogeneous solid that has a definite (but not fixed) chemical composition and a distinctive internal crystal structure. Minerals are usually formed by inorganic processes. Synthetic equivalents of various minerals, such as emeralds and diamonds, are manufactured for commercial purposes. Although most minerals are chemical compounds, a small number (e.g., sulfur, copper, gold) are elements. Minerals combine with each other to form rocks. For example, granite consists of the minerals feldspar, quartz, mica, and amphibole in varying amounts. Rocks are generally, therefore, an intergrowth of various minerals.
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Any of a group of important hydrous aluminum silicates with a layered structure and very small (less than 0.005 mm or microscopic) particle size. They are usually the products of weathering. Clay minerals occur widely in such sedimentary rocks as mudstones and shales, in marine sediments, and in soils. Different geologic environments produce different clay minerals from the same parent rock. They are used in the petroleum industry (as drilling muds and as catalysts in refining) and in the processing of vegetable and mineral oils (as decolorizing agents).
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Any member of a family of minerals that contains the carbonate ion, CO32−, as the basic structural unit. The carbonates are among the most widely distributed minerals in the earth's crust; the most common are calcite, dolomite, and aragonite. Dolomite replaces calcite in limestones; when this replacement is extensive, the rock is called dolomite. Other relatively common carbonate minerals are siderite, rhodochrosite, strontianite (strontium-rich); smithsonite (zinc-rich); witherite (barium-rich); and cerussite (lead-rich).
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The chemical composition may vary between end members of a mineral system. For example the plagioclase feldspars comprise a continuous series from sodium-rich albite (NaAlSi3O8) to calcium-rich anorthite (CaAl2Si2O8) with four recognized intermediate compositions between. Mineral-like substances that don't strictly meet the definition are sometimes classified as mineraloids. Other natural-occurring substances are nonminerals. Industrial minerals is a market term and refers to commercially valuable mined materials (see also Minerals and Rocks section below).
A crystal structure is the orderly geometric spatial arrangement of atoms in the internal structure of a mineral. There are 14 basic crystal lattice arrangements of atoms in three dimensions, and these are referred to as the 14 "Bravais lattices". Each of these lattices can be classified into one of the six crystal systems, and all crystal structures currently recognized fit in one Bravais lattice and one crystal system. This crystal structure is based on regular internal atomic or ionic arrangement that is often expressed in the geometric form that the crystal takes. Even when the mineral grains are too small to see or are irregularly shaped, the underlying crystal structure is always periodic and can be determined by X-ray diffraction.
Chemistry and crystal structure together define a mineral. In fact, two or more minerals may have the same chemical composition, but differ in crystal structure (these are known as polymorphs). For example, pyrite and marcasite are both iron sulfide, but their arrangement of atoms differs. Similarly, some minerals have different chemical compositions, but the same crystal structure: for example, halite (made from sodium and chlorine), galena (made from lead and sulfur) and periclase (made from magnesium and oxygen) all share the same cubic crystal structure.
Crystal structure greatly influences a mineral's physical properties. For example, though diamond and graphite have the same composition (both are pure carbon), graphite is very soft, while diamond is the hardest of all known minerals. This happens because the carbon atoms in graphite are arranged into sheets which can slide easily past each other, while the carbon atoms in diamond form a strong, interlocking three-dimensional network.
There are currently more than 4,000 known minerals, according to the International Mineralogical Association, which is responsible for the approval of and naming of new mineral species found in nature. Of these, perhaps 100 can be called "common," 50 are "occasional," and the rest are "rare" to "extremely rare."
Commercially valuable minerals and rocks are referred to as industrial minerals. Rocks from which minerals are mined for economic purposes are referred to as ores (the rocks and minerals that remain, after the desired mineral has been separated from the ore, are referred to as tailings).
Other factors are of equal importance in determining the natural association or paragenesis of rock-forming minerals, principally the mode of origin of the rock and the stages through which it has passed in attaining its present condition. Two rock masses may have very much the same bulk composition and yet consist of entirely different assemblages of minerals. The tendency is always for those compounds to be formed which are stable under the conditions under which the rock mass originated. A granite arises by the consolidation of a molten magma at high temperatures and great pressures and its component minerals are those stable under such conditions. Exposed to moisture, carbonic acid and other subaerial agents at the ordinary temperatures of the Earth's surface, some of these original minerals, such as quartz and white mica are relatively stable and remain unaffected; others weather or decay and are replaced by new combinations. The feldspar passes into kaolinite, muscovite and quartz, and any mafic minerals such as pyroxenes, amphiboles or biotite have been present they are often altered to chlorite, epidote, rutile and other substances. These changes are accompanied by disintegration, and the rock falls into a loose, incoherent, earthy mass which may be regarded as a sand or soil. The materials thus formed may be washed away and deposited as sandstone or siltstone. The structure of the original rock is now replaced by a new one; the mineralogical constitution is profoundly altered; but the bulk chemical composition may not be very different. The sedimentary rock may again undergo metamorphism. If penetrated by igneous rocks it may be recrystallized or, if subjected to enormous pressures with heat and movement during mountain building, it may be converted into a gneiss not very different in mineralogical composition though radically different in structure to the granite which was its original state.
Physical properties commonly used are:
The largest group of minerals by far are the silicates (most rocks are ≥95% silicates), which are composed largely of silicon and oxygen, with the addition of ions such as aluminium, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Some important rock-forming silicates include the feldspars, quartz, olivines, pyroxenes, amphiboles, garnets, and micas.
The halides are the group of minerals forming the natural salts and include fluorite (calcium fluoride), halite (sodium chloride), sylvite (potassium chloride), and sal ammoniac (ammonium chloride). Halides, like sulfates, are commonly found in evaporitic settings such as playa lakes and landlocked seas such as the Dead Sea and Great Salt Lake. The halide class includes the fluoride, chloride, bromide and iodide minerals.