Mineral Resources and Mining

Introduction

The place is Africa, the time 2.6 Million years ago (M.a.). Our ancestors, the Great Apes or Homo habilis, learned how to use rocks as tools to hunt, extract, crush or tear apart the meat or the hard plant substances they gathered. The period ranging from 2.6 million years ago (Ma) to 3000 B.C. is called the Paleolithic, Paleo = antique; lithos = stone. Indeed, the relationship between humans and rocks is very ancient. Rocks helped our kind survive! Rocky shelters and caves provided warmth and their walls served as a canvas to pictorial representations of life back then, the petroglyphs. We used minerals as paints for pigments for their dazzling colors, and ingested clay minerals and soils to supplement our diets or guarded us against toxins. Many things have changed since our humble origins, but our dependency on Earth’s mineral resources is not one of them. In this chapter, we will study mineral resources that shape civilizations, drive human exploration, and inspire human endeavors that include art, literature, and science.

 

Various stone artifacts showing pointy tips. They resemble the first weapons and tools used by humans.
Figure 9.0 Rocks have provided shelter and building materials since immemorial times. Pictured here are arrow heads made out of iron-rich rocks and chert.

 

 

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Describe the importance of geological resources to your life.
  • List and differentiate the main mining techniques.
  • Define acid rock drainage (ARD) and discuss why some mines can lead to ARD and contamination of the environment by metals.
  • Summarize the types of materials mined in Arizona and explain some of the economic and social impacts associated with their extraction and production.

 

License

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Dynamic Planet: Exploring Geological Disasters and Environmental Change by Charlene Estrada, Carolina Michele Londono, Merry Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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