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In this lesson, you will learn about how minerals are used around the world. You will also gain an understanding of where minerals are found on earth and how developed and developing nations consume them differently.

How We Use Minerals and Energy

We learned in a different lesson that minerals are inorganic substances with certain properties and characteristics. We also learned that minerals come from the ground through different mining methods and that they are important for a variety of things in our lives.But what are some of these things that we use minerals for? Minerals are in just about everything. Your computer, TV and phone are all full of minerals. If you own any jewelry, all of those stones and the gold or silver they are made of are minerals.

The copper wiring in your house, the cans of food in your pantry, the clothes you are wearing – all of those are from minerals!We also use minerals for many different types of energy. These sources of energy come from the ground and are called fossil fuels because they literally come from fossils. Fossil fuels are combustible substances formed from organisms that lived millions of years ago. Their tissues were buried deep underground and compressed and, after a very long time, created what we now use as gasoline, natural gas and coal. These fossil fuels are important because they power our vehicles and heat our homes.

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How Minerals are Distributed Across Earth

While minerals are quite useful for a variety of purposes all over the world, they are not very evenly distributed. Most minerals are found aggregated in certain places because the conditions were just right for them to form. Some parts of earth have far more deposits of minerals, while others have a high concentration of fossil fuels.Some of the largest oil reserves are found in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, which, combined, have more than two-thirds of the world’s supply. In contrast, the United States isn’t even among the world’s top 10 largest oil reserves, but it does have the largest percentage of coal reserves in the world (over one-fourth of the supply).South Africa is one place that has a very large amount of several metal minerals such as gold, chromium and platinum. Parts of South America and Australia also have large amounts of metal minerals such as nickel, copper and aluminum.

There is also a difference between who has the minerals and who produces them. For example, China produces more than one-third of the coal for use on earth (which is more than any other country), but has only about one-tenth of the world’s supply.

How Nations Consume Minerals

Though you may have been surprised to learn how many things come from minerals, you will likely not be surprised to learn that the consumption of minerals depends on the wealth and development of the nations consuming them. In fact, developed countries may use up to 100 times more mineral resources per person than developing countries.The United States is one of the top mineral consumers in the world; we use about 30% of the world’s minerals, but only have 5% of the world’s population! One reason that developing countries consume fewer minerals is because the people of these countries tend to be poorer than those in developed nations. In fact, many developing nations not only cannot afford their share of the minerals on earth, but are often the suppliers of the minerals that are being exported to richer nations.Diamonds are one mineral that has gotten a lot of attention for this problem.

Many of the world’s diamonds are found in areas that are very poor and that have wars or civil conflicts. These diamonds are called conflict or blood diamonds because they come from areas that use the diamond trade to fund these wars.In addition to wealth, developed nations tend to consume more minerals because they use their resources differently. Developed nations focus much of their resource availability in industry, technology and transportation, which increases their consumption.

Developing countries tend to focus their resources on sustaining daily life without these same technological advances. For example, farmers in both the U.S. and Bali grow crops for food production. However, farmers in the U.

S. use tractors, airplanes and other powered machinery, while the farmers in Bali must do the same work by hand or with animals.

Lesson Summary

Minerals are inorganic compounds found below earth’s surface such as precious stones, metals and fossil fuels. Minerals are an important part of almost everything we use: from jewelry and clothing to transportation and heat for our homes.

While mineral resources are important for all people, they are neither evenly distributed on earth, nor shared equally once they have been extracted from the ground.Production of these resources also varies around the world, and the amount of mineral production does not always correlate with the available supply in that area, as is the case with coal in China. Because so many types of minerals are important in our everyday lives, they are in high demand and can cause conflict between those who can afford them and those who can’t.

Learning Outcomes

When this lesson is done, you should be able to:

  • Define minerals and some of their common uses
  • Describe where and how minerals seem to be distributed about the planet
  • Recognize how minerals get used and where they are used most
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