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Metallic minerals

We explain what metallic minerals are, their characteristics, types, applications and we give several examples

What are metallic minerals?

The metallic minerals are those which contain in their composition one or more metallic elements. They are chemicals of inorganic origin, found naturally as mineral deposits.

These minerals are of great importance, since they constitute the ores of most of the metals that are used in all kinds of applications. All modern technology depends on metals such as copper, zinc, gold, and others.

Industries as varied as construction and the aerospace industry also depend on different metals such as iron, aluminum, titanium and magnesium, among others. All these metals are obtained from the exploitation and processing of metallic minerals.

Characteristics of metallic minerals

  • They contain one or more metals as part of their composition.
  • They generally consist of sulfide minerals in which the metals are associated with sulfur, selenium, tellurium, antimony, and, in some cases, bismuth.
  • They can be found in different types of mineral deposits such as magmatic and hydrothermal deposits, and metamorphic contact deposits, among others.
  • They can contain pure metals in the form of native elements such as gold, copper, silver and platinum, among others.
  • They are compounds that have a metallic bond between their elements.
  • They are mostly opaque minerals and in the few cases where they are translucent, they only let light through in very thin sections of the mineral and have a high refractive index.
  • They have a metallic luster.
  • They are good conductors of heat and electricity.
  • They have variable hardnesses that can range from 1 to 6 on the Mohs scale.

Types of metallic minerals

Minerals are generally classified according to their composition in terms of the anion they contain. However, in the case of metallic minerals, these can be divided into two classes according to the type of metal they contain:

The word ferrous comes from the name of the element iron in Latin, which is ferrum , so ferrous metallic minerals are all those minerals that contain iron as the main metallic element. They may contain small amounts of other metals.

Ferrous minerals are used to produce iron, which is the most exploited and used metal in the world.

Non-ferrous metallic minerals

They are the opposite of ferrous metallic minerals, that is, they are those metallic minerals that do not contain iron in their composition. These minerals are the source of all other metallic elements such as aluminum, copper, nickel, gold and platinum, among others.

Despite not being as abundant or as exploited as ferrous minerals, they are indispensable in a myriad of industries essential to life as we know it today.

Applications of metallic minerals

Metallic minerals are used in almost all industries:

Jewelry

Precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum, which are found in the form of native element minerals, form the basis of jewelry. This is due to its high gloss properties, malleability and its resistance to oxidation.

Building

Iron obtained from ferrous metals is frequently used for the manufacture of metal reinforcements such as rebar and mesh in the construction industry. In addition, it is the basis for the manufacture of all steels of different hardness, brightness, chemical resistance, etc.

Automovile industry

As in the construction industry, metallic minerals provide the structural metals necessary for the construction of the compact, the body, the engine and a multitude of other parts from which automobiles are made.

Electrical industry

The two metals most used as electrical conductors are copper and aluminum. Copper is one of the best electrical conductors out there, but it is relatively expensive.

Aluminum, on the other hand, is more abundant and easier to exploit from metallic minerals such as bauxite, and it is the metal of choice for power lines that carry electrical energy from the generation plant to the homes where it is consumed.

electronics

Metallic minerals are essential in electronics for the same reasons as in the electrical industry: metals are excellent electrical conductors. However, in the electronics industry, more expensive metals such as gold are usually used, which, in addition to being a better conductor than copper, is a noble metal that does not oxidize.

Other metallic minerals have the characteristic of being semiconductors so they can be used directly in electronic devices and in the manufacture of different types of circuits.

Examples of metallic minerals

Magnetite

Ferrous mineral with the formula Fe 3 O 4 . It is the most common iron ore and consists of a mixed ferric and ferrous oxide. It is a magnetic mineral capable of attracting ferromagnetic metals.

Chalcopyrite

Ferrous mineral of formula CuFeS 2 . It is a sulfide-type ferrous mineral that constitutes the most widely distributed copper ore.

Native gold

It consists of a natural form of elemental gold found in the form of veins in the subsoil.

Goethite

Another example of a ferrous mineral, in this case made up of a yellow mineral formed by a combination of ferric oxide and hydroxide.

Bauxite

Bauxite is a non-ferrous metallic mineral from which aluminum is extracted. Its formula may vary slightly, but in general it contains Al 2 O 3 .2H 2 O.

Native silver

They consist of a non-ferrous metallic mineral composed only of the element silver in free form.

Limonite

Yet another example of a ferrous mineral, in this case with the formula FeO (OH) .nH 2 O.

Siderite

It is a ferrous metallic mineral, belonging to the family of carbonate minerals, since it is composed mainly of ferrous carbonate, FeCO 3 .

Native copper

In addition to being found in different types of minerals associated with different anions, copper can also be found in elemental form as metallic copper.

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