June 21, 2022

How Much Minerals Do We Need in Our Lifetime?

The average American would need around 2.96 million pounds of minerals, metals, and fuels in their lifetime. We can divide all minerals into two groups.

Group one are called essential minerals that our body needs to stay healthy and strong. These minerals are used to help bones, heart, muscles, brain and every single part function properly and effectively. They are categorized into two subgroups called macrominerals or major minerals and microminerals or trace minerals. This division is based on the amount of these minerals needed for the health of our body. Examples of macrominerals that our body needs in larger quantity are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur. Examples of microminerals are chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc.

Since our body does not make these minerals, we should get them from external sources. We get these minerals either directly or through eating animals and plants which already received the minerals from soil and water.

Image Credit and copyright: SME’s Minerals Education Coalition

Some minerals are easy to obtain through healthy diets, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, grains and so on. However, there are some that are not as easy for body to receive them such as calcium, Iron, magnesium, and potassium.

The second group of minerals are those that are used to make materials for construction, transportation, consumer electronics, advanced high-tech technologies, manufacturing, defense, and every other sector of the society. Every American would need more than 38,000 pounds of new minerals annually to provide the lifestyle that we have nowadays. Aggregate and crushed stones, bauxite, clay and shale, coal, cobalt, copper, gypsum, Iron ore, limestone, and rare earth minerals are some examples of mineral commodities we use in different industries. Figure below shows what mineral commodities are used to manufacture a bicycle.

Image Credit and copyright: SME’s Minerals Education Coalition

There are more than 5,000 different types of minerals in the form of different combinations of elements in the periodic table of elements. Without any doubt, our life today is heavily dependent on the minerals and natural resources. Therefore, it would be essential for us to develop recycling techniques and sustainable mining and processing technologies to be able to address climate change challenges and concerns.

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