Muscovite, one of the most common forms of mica mineral. This particular mineral was found in Finland.
Photograph by: Henri Koskinen/Shutterstock
A mineral is a naturally occurring crystalline solid that cannot be physically broken down into smaller components.
Deposits of minerals form when a medium that contains and transports mineral-making ore releases and deposits the ore. Magma is one such medium that transports ores. When magma or lava cools, the magma and ore carried within it crystallize to form tiny minerals in the newly-created igneous rock. Minerals found in such rock might include feldspar or mica. Minerals can also be transported and released from water sources, such as seawater, river water, or groundwater. Often, chemical changes in the water might result in the release of different minerals such as salt or calcium carbonate. Pressure and heat in the process of creating metamorphic rock can also result in the formation or transformation of minerals.
Distribution of mineral deposits is related to the transportation and release process. When gold minerals are released, typically they are so heavy that they are distributed to the bottom of riverbeds. Other minerals, such as feldspar, hornblende, or quartz, may be lightweight and drift in waterways until they are washed up on shores of riverbanks or coasts. Minerals in igneous rocks often form where magma has cooled over time. In this case, the mineral grains will be larger underground, where magma has not reached the Earth’s surface, and the cooling period is much longer.
The mineral extraction process begins with finding the location of mineral deposits. Remote sensors that use satellite images and geochemical surveys are just two ways that minerals can be located. Many minerals are then removed through mining or quarrying. However, liquid minerals, such as oil or gas, may be extracted by pumping. Once extracted, minerals are refined in a variety of ways to remove impurities. They are then processed in a way that humans can best use them.
type of mineral that is clear and, when viewed under a microscope, has a repeating pattern of atoms and molecules.
rock formed by the cooling of magma or lava.
molten, or partially melted, rock beneath the Earth's surface.
rock that has transformed its chemical qualities from igneous or sedimentary.
inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.
deposit in the Earth of minerals containing valuable metal.