The naturally occurring elements or compounds called minerals occupy a major portion of the earth's crust. The importance of minerals lies in the fact that whatever we use/see in our daily life, be it a toothpaste or a toothpaste factory, everything and anything is made from minerals. These are not just used in the making of material things but are also present in the food we eat. Hence, it would not be wrong to say that minerals are an indispensable part of human life.
Though we all might have come across the term 'minerals' many times, many of us may think, 'What are minerals used for!' To get a better idea about the types of minerals and their uses, let us classify the minerals into the following two categories-
Metallic minerals, e.g.- copper, bauxite, gold etc.
Non-metallic minerals, e.g.- fossil fuels, graphite etc.
As the name suggests, metallic minerals are the sources of metals. These can be further classified into ferrous (having iron content) and non-ferrous minerals (devoid of iron content).
Since metallic minerals are sources of metals, they are good conductors of heat and electricity. This is why they find use in a wide range of industrial applications. The following are few uses of some important metallic minerals: -
Aluminium: Aluminium is the most abundant metallic mineral in the earth's crust. It is extracted from bauxite ore. It finds application in a number of industries including,
Manufacture of cans, bottles etc.
Copper: It is another important metallic mineral which has a wide range of uses.
It is used in making machine parts, electronic components, electrical wires etc.
Coins and jewellery are also made using copper.
Plant diseases can also be treated using copper compounds.
Gold: Gold is a metallic mineral which is very lustrous. It is primarily used in making jewellery. Hence, it is also an economical mineral. Being an excellent conductor of electricity, it is also used in electronic industry.
As much as we use minerals in our daily life, in the making of material goods and appliances, we use it in our daily diet. Let us now discuss some of the uses of minerals in the body.
Minerals play a vital role in the growth and development of the human body. Following are few essential minerals required by the human body and their uses.
Calcium - It is the most abundant mineral found in the human body and is required for healthy bones and teeth. It also helps in regulating blood pressure and immune system and fluid balance within cells. Calcium also plays a key role in the efficient working of enzymes. Deficiency of calcium can lead to brittle bone disease (osteoporosis) which causes bone deterioration. Proper intake of calcium rich diet is thus important for growth and development of body. Milk, cheese, nuts, yoghurt etc are a few calcium rich food.
Potassium, Sodium - These are minerals having great significance in the human body as they play a vital role in carrying out electrical and cellular functions. Potassium is the most predominant cation found within cells. These are used for nerve transmission and muscle contraction. Potassium is present in more amount than sodium in our body. High intake of sodium causes hypertension (high blood pressure). Hence, it is important to maintain proper balance of sodium and potassium in the body to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Green leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains are high in potassium and low in sodium.
Sulphur - It is an important part of protein. It is also necessary for insulin production. Seafood, onions, turnips, garlic etc. contain good amount of sulphur.
Phosphorus - It is required for healthy bones. The skeleton consists of 85% of body phosphorus. The phosphate ion also helps in maintaining acid-base balance.
Magnesium - A major portion of magnesium is present in bones. It is important in carry out neuromuscular transmissions and various functions of enzyme systems.
As we now know, that everything we see around us in this modern world is composed of minerals, this is a clear indication of the economic importance of minerals in today's world.
As far as economic uses of minerals are concerned, non-metallic minerals or the energy minerals mainly serve the purpose. They are used in the agriculture industry, transportation industry, power industry etc. Apart from non-metallic minerals, precious metals like gold, silver and platinum also have great economic importance.
Energy minerals like coal, petroleum, natural gas are the basic fuels and are used in thermal power generation, automobile engines, cosmetic industries, manufacture of synthetic rubber and much more.
Ever wondered, what are the roads that we walk on or the houses that we live in are made from? These are made from construction minerals like sand, gravel, clay or crushed rocks that is used in the manufacture of bricks, concrete etc. If we are able to cover a distance of many kilometres in just a few minutes, it is only because of the automobiles that run from fuels. If we see the world around us, all lightened and brightened up even in the dark, then it is only because of the electrical energy being produced using various metallic and energy minerals. The uses of mineral resources are immense and the depletion of minerals can create a serious impact on human life.
Overall, we can say that everything ranging from the chalk we use to write on blackboards to the buses we take to reach the school, is made from minerals. In fact, this entire world and all the living beings around us are composed of minerals. The characteristic chemical and physical properties of minerals are responsible for their wide range of uses. This is why minerals are a significant part of our everyday life and an important topic of study. The more we learn about it, the more we know about the immense potential of minerals in making human life much easier and sophisticated.