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What is a Mineral?

Naturally Occurring Inorganic Solid Definite Chemical Formula Definite Crystal Structure

Naturally Occurring

Formed by natural processes not in the laboratory.

Is an ice cube a mineral? Is the ice on the windshield of a car a mineral? Minerals manufactured by humans are not considered minerals.


Formed by inorganic processes; not living

Minerals are not made from living things. Coal is made of carbon. Is it a mineral?


Minerals cannot be a gas or a liquid.

- H2O as ice in a glacier is a mineral, but water is not.

Definite Crystal Structure

Highly ordered atomic arrangement of atoms in regular geometric patterns Minerals are crystals with a repeated inner structure.





Definite Chemical Formula

Minerals are expressed by a specific chemical formula.

Gold (Au) Calcite (CaCO3) Quartz (SiO2) Pyrite (FeS2)

Minerals made of only one type of atom (element) are called native elements.

Gold Copper


Types of minerals

Minerals are most commonly classified by chemical composition. The 2 main groups are silicates and nonsilicates.


Minerals containing a combination of silicon (Si) and oxygen (O) (most common elements in the earths crust) Silicate minerals comprise about 90% of the Earths crust. Silicates minerals often contain other elements such as aluminum, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Granite is a rock comprised of the minerals feldspar, biotite mica and quartz.


Feldspar minerals make up half of the Earths crust and is the main component of most of the rocks found on the Earths surface. Feldspar contains Si, O, Al, K, Na, and Ca


Biotite Mica

soft and shiny minerals that separate easily into sheets biotite is one variety of mica


silicon dioxide ( SiO2) is the basic building block of many rocks


minerals that do not contain the combination of Si and O some of these minerals are made up of C, O, F, and S

Classes of nonsilicates

Native Elements Carbonates Halides Oxides Sulfates Sulfides

Native Elements

Native elements are composed of only 1 element About 20 exist including Au, Pt, C, Cu, S and Ag


contain the combinations of carbon and Oxygen in their chemical structure calcite (CaCO3 ) is an example carbonates are used in cement, building stones and fireworks


form when atoms containing fluorine, chlorine, iodine, or bromine (halogens) combine with potassium or calcium Halite (NaCl) is better known as rock salt Fluorite can have many different colors Halides are often used in making fertilizers Fluorite


compounds formed when elements like aluminum or iron bond with oxygen Corundum (Al2O3) and Magnetite (Fe3O4) are important oxides Are used in abrasives and airplane parts


minerals containing sulfur and oxygen (SO4) gypsum (CaSO4 * 2H2O) is a common example makes the white sand at White Sands National Monument in NM sulfates are commonly used in cosmetics, toothpaste and paints



minerals containing one or more elements such as lead, iron, or nickel combines with sulfur Galena (PbS) is a sulfide Sulfides are used to make batteries, medicines and electronic parts

Composition of the Earths Crust

Eight Elements that make up over 98% of Earths Crust Oxygen (O) Silicon (Si) Aluminum (Al) Iron (Fe) Calcium (Ca) Sodium (Na) Potassium (K) Magnesium (Mg)

Where Do Minerals Come From?

In general, minerals form in two ways:
Cooling magma - Crystallization of melted materials From solution - Crystallization of materials dissolved in water

At the surface

Beneath the surface



Magma is molten material from the mantle that hardens to form rock. Lava is magma that reaches the surface. Minerals form as hot magma cools inside the crust, or as lava hardens on the surface. When these liquids cool to the solid state, they form crystals.

Size of Crystals

Depends of several factors:

The rate at which the magma cools The amount of gas the magma contains The chemical composition of the magma

When magma remains deep below the surface, it cools slowly over many thousands of years. Slow cooling leads to the formation of large crystals. Magma closer to the surface cools much faster, producing smaller crystals.

Minerals from Hot Water Solutions

Sometimes, the elements that form a mineral dissolve in hot water and form a solution. A solution is a mixture in which one substance dissolves in another.

When a hot water solution begins to cool, the elements and compounds leave the solution and crystallize as minerals. This can happen on the ocean floor when ocean water seeps down through cracks in the crust.

Minerals formed by Evaporation

Minerals can also form when solutions evaporate. Example: salt from sea water Several other useful minerals also from by the evaporation of seawater:

Gypsum Calcite crystals Minerals containing potassium

Minerals formed by Metamorphism

When rocks are put under extreme heat and pressure, the chemical composition of the rock can change, forming new minerals. Examples: calcite, garnet, graphite, hematite, magnetite, mica and talc.

How Are Minerals Identified?

Color Luster Hardness Streak Density Crystal Shape Cleavage and Fracture Special Properties


Usually the first and most easily observed

Not a reliable way to identify a mineral

- Some minerals are the same color as others - Some minerals can have many colors





General appearance of a mineral surface in reflected light


Examples of luster

Metallic Vitreous: similar to glass

Resinous: resembles the way plastic reflects light Pearly: resembles the way pearls shine Greasy: resembles the way petroleum jelly or a greasy surface reflects light
Silky: resembles the way silk reflects light Earthy: dull, may be rough or dusty

Adamantine: resembles the way a diamond shines Fibrous looks like fibers Pitchy looks like tar


Resistance to scratching by different items; scratchability Mohs Hardness Scale is used to determine the hardness of minerals by comparing them to substances of known hardness:
< 2 fingernail 3 penny ~ 5 Steel of a pocket knife 5.5 Window Glass 6.6 Steel of a file 7 Quartz crystal

Mohs Mineral Hardness Scale

1) Talc
2) Gypsum 3) Calcite 4) Flourite 5) Apatite 6) Feldspar 7) Quartz 8) Topaz
3 9



9) Corundum
10) Diamond Hardest



The color of a finely powdered mineral Determined by rubbing the mineral on a piece of unglazed porcelain (streak plate)


The amount of matter in a given space

Specific Gravity is the comparison of a substances density to the density of water

Crystal Shape

Minerals have a characteristic crystal shape resulting from the atomic packing of the atoms when the mineral is forming

Cleavage and Fracture

Cleavage is the tendency of a mineral to split or crack along parallel or flat planes Fracture occurs when a mineral breaks at random lines instead of at consistent cleavage planes.
QUARTZ Obsidian


1 Direction of Cleavage

No Cleavage

Conchoidal Fracture


Magnetism (Magnetite) Glowing under ultraviolet light (Fluorite)

Special Properties

Taste (Halite) Smell (Sulfur) Reaction to HCl (Calcite) Double refractive - a thin, clear piece of calcite placed over an image will cause a double image Radioactivity - minerals containing radium or uranium can be detected by a Geiger counter

Economic Importance of Minerals

Minerals are in many things we see and use everyday such as; bricks, glass, cement, plaster, iron, gold

Every American Requires 40,000 Pounds of New Minerals per Year

at this level of consumption the average newborn infant will need a lifetime supply of: -795 lbs of lead (car batteries, electric components) -757 lbs of zinc (to make brass, rubber, paints) -1500lbs of copper (electrical motors, wirings -3593 lbs aluminum (soda cans, aircraft) -32,700 lbs of iron (kitchen utensils, automobiles, buildings) -28,213 lbs of salt (cooking, detergents) -1,238,101 lbs of stone, sand, gravel, cement (roads, homes, etc.)