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Geosciences LibreTexts

16: Energy and Mineral Resources

  • Page ID
    6950
  • Learning Objectives

    • Describe how a renewable resource is different from a nonrenewable resource
    • Compare the pros and cons of fossil fuel extraction and use, including unconventional resources
    • Describe the process of metallic mineral formation and extraction
    • Understand the use of nonmetallic mineral resources

    An important use of geologic knowledge is locating economically valuable materials for use in society. All items we use can come from only three sources: they can be farmed, hunted or fished, or they can be mined.  without mining, modern civilization would not exist. Geologists are essential in the process of mining.

    • 16.1: Prelude to Energy and Mineral Resources
      At the turn of the Twentieth Century, speculation was rampant that food supplies would not keep pace with world demand, and artificial fertilizers would need to be developed. The ingredients for fertilizers are mined: nitrogen from the atmosphere using the Haber process, potassium from the hydrosphere (lakes or oceans) by evaporation, and phosphorus from the lithosphere (minerals like apatite from phosphorite rock, found in Florida, North Carolina, Idaho, Utah, and around the world).
    • 16.2: Mining
      Mining is defined as the extraction, from the Earth, of valuable material for societal use. Usually, this includes solid materials (e.g. gold, iron, coal, diamond, sand, and gravel), but can also include fluid resources such as oil and natural gas. Modern mining has a long relationship with modern society. The oldest evidence of mining, with a concentrated area of digging into the Earth for materials, has a history that may go back 40,000 years to the hematite of the Lion Cave in Swaziland.
    • 16.3: Fossil Fuels
      Fossils fuels are extractable sources of stored energy created by ancient ecosystems. The natural resources that typically fall under this category are coal, oil (petroleum), and natural gas. This energy was originally formed via photosynthesis by living organisms such as plants, phytoplankton, algae, and cyanobacteria. Sometimes this is known as fossil solar energy since the energy of the sun in the past has been converted into the chemical energy within a fossil fuel.
    • 16.4: Mineral Resources
      Mineral resources, while principally nonrenewable, are generally placed in two main categories: metallic (containing metals) or nonmetallic (containing other useful materials). Most mining is focused on metallic minerals. A significant part of the advancement of human society has been developing the knowledge and technologies that yielded metal from the Earth and allowed the machines, buildings, and monetary systems that dominate our world today.
    • 16.S: Summary

    Thumbnail: View of the Utah Copper Company open-pit mine workings at Carr Fork, as seen from the railroad, Bingham Canyon, Utah/ (Public Domain; Andreas Feininger via Wikipedia)