Types of Metals and Minerals

Metals are often categorised into distinct groups defined by their properties or function. The names of these groups only reflect common uses or properties and not their scientific classification:

Precious metals: include gold, silver and platinum.

N.B About 90 per cent of total gold production comes from gold mines. The remaining 10 percent is produced as a by-product from mining other metals, such as copper and nickel.

Precious metals are traded on world markets and used in a range of applications from jewellery to electronics to catalytic converters in cars.

Base metals- are those of lower value, mainly copper, lead and zinc. Refined forms of these metals are commonly traded on world markets in a variety of standard shapes and sizes. These are the basic building materials.

    • Ferrous metals- are those with a high iron content, which includes all types of steel. The word "ferrous" is derived from Ferrum, the Latin word for iron. Chromium, cobalt, manganese and molybdenum are commonly included in this group because their major use is to improve the properties of steel.
    • Non-ferrous metals- include aluminium, copper, lead, magnesium, nickel, tin and zinc, since they have principal uses unrelated to steelmaking. Note that there is some overlap with the base metals, and the choice of the group name depends on the context.

Rare earth metals: are not all that rare in the earth's crust, but their extraction is complex and difficult. They include scandium, yttrium, lanthanum and the 14 elements (lanthanides) following lanthanum in the periodic table. They have widespread uses, though in small volumes, in the manufacturing of glass, ceramics, glazes, magnets, lasers and television tubes, as well as in refining petroleum.

Alloys: are made by mixing two or more metallic elements to form a new, unique substance that has differing chemical and physical properties to its component parts. Over 90 percent of the metals in use today are alloys.
Alloying elements are usually added to pure metals to enhance strength or improve particular properties, such as corrosion resistance, wear resistance and ability to be cut.

(Referenced from https://www.icmm.com/en-gb/metals-and-minerals/producing-metals/what-are-minerals-metals-)


Energy Minerals: These include coal, oil, gas and uranium. These minerals are generally used to produce electricity, organic chemicals, plastics, for process fuel, as well as for transportation. While they clearly have other uses, they are predominantly used in the energy sector and the other uses are mainly as derivatives from their main use.

Construction Materials: Minerals under this category include Bricks, Building Stones, Cement, Clay, Crushed Rock, Aggregate, Gypsum, Sand, Gravel and Slate. These are the most common minerals although they are sometimes not viewed as falling under the extractive industry hence not given due attention. They are used for construction.

Industrial Minerals: These include Bentonite, Industrial Carbonates, Kaolin, Magnesia, Potash, Salt, Sand, Silica and Sulphur. They are used for the making of ceramics, chemicals, foundry casting, fillers, pigments, fuel, gas, iron, steel, metallurgy and for water treatment.

Precious Stones: These include diamonds and gems. They are mostly used for the manufacture of jewellery and for industrial purposes.


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