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Minerals: Building Blocks of Rocks

Minerals: Building Blocks of Rocks begins with an explanation of the difference between a mineral and a rock, followed by a formal definition of a mineral. Elements, atoms, compounds, ions, and atomic bonding are explained. Also investigated are isotopes and radioactivity. Following descriptions of the properties used in mineral identification, the silicate and nonsilicate mineral groups are examined. The chapter concludes with a discussion of mineral resources, reserves, and ores.

Learning Objectives
After reading, studying, and discussing the chapter, students should be able to:

Explain the difference between a mineral and a rock. Describe the basic structure of an atom and explain how atoms combine. List the most important elements that compose Earth's continental crust. Explain isotopes and radioactive decay. Describe the physical properties of minerals and how they can be used for mineral identification. List the basic compositions and structures of the silicate minerals. List the economic use of some nonsilicate minerals. Distinguish between mineral resources, reserves, and ores.

Chapter Summary
A mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic solid that possesses a definite chemical composition and a definitive molecular structure that gives it a unique set of physical properties. Most rocks are aggregates composed of two or more minerals. The building blocks of minerals are elements. An atom is the smallest particle of matter that still retains the characteristics of an element. Each atom has a nucleus, which contains protons and neutrons. Orbiting the nucleus of an atom are electrons. The number of protons in an atom's nucleus determines its atomic number and the name of the element. Atoms bond together to form a compound by either gaining, losing, or sharing electrons with another atom. Isotopes are variants of the same element, but with a different mass number (the total number of neutrons plus protons found in an atom's nucleus). Some isotopes are unstable and disintegrate naturally through a process called radioactive decay. The properties of minerals include crystal form, luster, color, streak, hardness, cleavage, fracture, and specific gravity. In addition, a number of special physical and chemical properties (taste, smell, elasticity, malleability, feel, magnetism, double refraction, and chemical reaction to hydrochloric acid) are useful in identifying certain minerals. Each mineral has a unique set of properties which c1x be used for identification. The eight most abundant elements found in Earth's continental crust (oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium) also compose the majority of minerals.

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The most common mineral group is the silicates. All silicate minerals have the silicon-oxygen tetrahedron as their fundamental building block. In some silicate minerals the tetrahedra are joined in chains; in others, the tetrahedra are arranged into sheets, or three-dimensional networks. Each silicate mineral has a structure and a chemical composition that indicates the conditions under which it was formed. The nonsilicate mineral groups include the oxides (e.g., magnetite, mined for iron), sulfides (e.g., sphalerite, mined for zinc), sulfates (e.g., gypsum, used in plaster and frequently found in sedimentary rocks), native elements (e.g., graphite, a dry lubricant), halides (e.g., halite, common salt and frequently found in sedimentary rocks), and carbonates (e.g., calcite, used in Portland cement and a major constituent in two well-known rocks: limestone and marble). The term ore is used to denote useful metallic minerals, like hematite (mined for iron) and galena (mined for lead) that can be mined for a profit as well as some nonmetallic minerals, such as fluorite and sulfur, that contain useful substances.

Chapter Outline___________________________________________________________________
I. Minerals: the building blocks of rocks A. Mineral definition 1. Naturally occurring 2. Inorganic 3. Solid 4. Possess an orderly internal structure of atoms 5. Have a definite chemical composition B. Mineraloid - lacks an orderly internal structure C. Rocks are aggregates (mixtures) of minerals II. Composition and structure of minerals A. Elements 1. Basic building blocks of minerals 2. Over 100 are known B. Atoms 1. Smallest particles of matter 2. Have all the characteristics of an element III. How atoms are constructed A. Nucleus, which contains 1. Protons positive electrical charges 2. Neutrons neutral electrical charges B. Energy levels, or shells 1. Surround nucleus 2. Contain electrons negative electrical charges C. Atomic number is the number of protons in an atom's nucleus D. Bonding of atoms 1. Forms a compound with two or more elements 2. Ions are atoms that gain or lose electrons E. Isotopes 1. Have varying number of neutrons 2. Have different mass numbers the sum of the neutrons plus protons 3. Many isotopes are radioactive and emit energy and particles IV. Minerals A. Properties of minerals 1. Crystal form 2. Luster 3. Color 4. Streak 5. Hardness 6. Cleavage 7. Fracture 8. Specific gravity 9. Other properties a. Taste b. Smell

c. Elasticity d. Malleability

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e. Feel f. Magnetism g. Double refraction h. Reaction to hydrochloric acid B. A few dozen minerals are called the rockforming minerals 1. The eight elements that compose most rock-forming minerals are oxygen (O), silicon (Si), aluminum (Al), iron (Fe), calcium (Ca), sodium (Na), potassium (K), and magnesium (Mg) 2. Most abundant atoms in Earth's crust are a. Oxygen (46.6% by weight) b. Silicon (27.7% by weight) C. Mineral groups 1. Rock-forming silicates a. Most common mineral group b. Contain the silicon-oxygen tetrahedron 1. Four oxygen atoms surrounding a much smaller silicon atom 2. Millions join together in a variety of ways c. Groups based upon tetrahedron arrangement 1. Olivine independent tetrahedron 2. Pyroxene group tetrahedron are arranged in chains 3. Amphibole group tetrahedron are arranged in double chains 4. Micas a. Tetrahedron are arranged in sheets b. Two types of mica

1. Biotite (dark) and 2. Muscovite (light) 5. Feldspars a. Three-dimensional network of tetrahedron b. Two types of feldspars 1. Orthoclase and 2. Plagioclase 6. Quartz three-dimensional network of tetrahedron d. Feldspars are the most plentiful mineral group e. Crystallize from molten material 2. Nonsilicate minerals a. Major groups 1. Oxides 2. Sulfides 3. Sulfates 4. Halides 5. Carbonates 6. "Native" elements b. Carbonates 1. A major rock-forming group 2. Found in the rocks limestone and marble c. Halite and gypsum are found in sedimentary rocks d. Many have economic value D. Mineral resources 1. Reserves are already identified deposits 2. Ores are useful metallic minerals that can be mined at a profit 3. Economic factors may change and influence a resource

Key Terms
atom atomic number carbonates cleavage color compound crystal form electron element energy level feldspar fracture hardness ion isotope luster mass number mineral mineralogy mineral resource Mohs hardness scale neutron nucleus ore proton quartz radioactive decay reserve rock rock-forming minerals silicate silicon-oxygen tetrahedron specific gravity streak

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Answers to the Review Questions


1. A substance must be natural, inorganic, solid, possess an orderly internal structure, and have a definite chemical composition in ordered to be classified as a mineral. 2. Rocks are aggregates of one or more minerals. 3. Protons and neutrons are found in the nucleus and represent practically all of an atom's mass. Protons are positively charged, whereas neutrons are neutral. Electrons orbit the nucleus, have practically no mass, and carry a negative charge. 4. (a) In a neutral atom, the number of protons equals the number of electrons; therefore the answer is 35.

(b) The atomic number is the same as the number of protons, thus the answer is 35. (c) By subtracting the number of protons from the mass number, the number of neutrons can be determined. The number of neutrons is 45.

5. An ion is produced when an atom either gains or loses one or more electrons and becomes either negatively charged (if electrons are gained) or positively charged (if electrons are lost). 6. Isotopes of an element have varying numbers of neutrons in the nucleus and, hence, different atomic weights. 7. Usually crystal growth is interrupted because of competition for space. The result is an intergrown mass of small, closely spaced crystals, none of which exhibits its crystal form. 8. Impurities often cause the same mineral to have many colors. For example, fluorite can be purple, clear, yellow, etc., while quartz can be practically any color. 9. The hardness test might help you make a determination. 10. Any mineral listed in Mohs scale, corundum for example, will scratch softer minerals (those with lower hardness values) and will not scratch harder minerals. Corundum would scratch virtually all other minerals, diamond being the lone exception. Thus corundum is widely used in abrasives and polishing compounds. 11. The specific gravity of water is one by definition. Thus equal volumes of water and gold would have their weights in the ratio 1:20. Since the 5 gallons of water weigh 40 pounds (5 gallons x 8 pounds/gallon), the five gallon pail of gold will weigh about 800 pounds (20 x 40 pounds = 800 pounds). 12. The two most abundant elements in the Earth's crust (by weight) are oxygen (46.6%) and silicon (27.7%).

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13. Feldspars are by far the most plentiful group of silicate minerals, comprising over 50 percent of Earth's crust. Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the continental crust. 14. Calcite, hematite, and gypsum are all nonsilicate minerals that are commonly found in rocks. 15. Mineral reserves are identified deposits from which minerals can be extracted profitably. The concept of a mineral resource has a broader meaning. In addition to including reserves, it also includes known deposits that are not yet economically or technologically recoverable, as well as deposits that are inferred to exist but not yet discovered. 16. One way a mineral deposit could become profitable to extract is through an economic change; e.g., the demand for a metal may increase and cause a price increase. Also, if a technological advance allows the metal to be extracted at a lower cost, it may become profitable to extract and thus be reclassified as an ore.

Answers to the Earth System Questions


1. (Answers will vary depending upon the mineral commodity selected) 2. (Answers will vary depending upon the mineral commodity selected)

PowerPoint slides for each chapter of Earth Science are available on the DIGIT disc (ISBN 013-035431-7). There are instructions in the CD's ReadMe file for embedding QuickTime for use in the PowerPoint slides. For additional resources, visit http://www.prenhall.com/tarbuck. the Earth Science Home Page at

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