Human beings, in all stages of their development, have used minerals for their livelihood, decoration, festivities, religious and ceremonial rites. Such indispensable parts are minerals that life processes cannot occur without them (minerals). From a tiny pin to a towering building or a huge ship, almost everything we use, all are made from minerals; even the food that we eat contains minerals.
Although our mineral intake shares only about 0.3 percent of our total intake of nutrients, they are so influential and so significant that without them it is most impossible to utilize the other 99.7 percent of foodstuffs.
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Mineral: An abridged introduction
Mineral has been defined by Geologists as a “homogenous, naturally occurring substance with a definable internal structure.” Ranging from the hardest diamond to the softest talc minerals are found in various forms in nature.
On the basis of their compositions, minerals, that vary in physical properties like colour and hardness as well as chemical compositions, are classified in two groups. (i) Metallic minerals and (ii) Non-metallic minerals.
(i) Metallic minerals: These contain metals which are hard substances that conduct heat and electricity. They possess a characteristic shine or luster and can be beaten into various shapes (are malleable) and can be drawn into wire (are ductile).
As different types of metals have different properties and uses, we use precious metals mainly for making jwellery. Light metals like aluminium and titanium are used in manufacturing cars aircrafts, etc.
Solutions composed of two or more elements (Metallic compounds) are called alloys; an alloy possesses in itself certain influential properties that a constituent metal doesn’t have. Some important alloys are: brass (made of copper and zinc), bronze (made of copper and tin) and alloy steels (steals containing varying amounts of chromium, nickel, magnese, etc.).
Metallic minerals, further, may be ferrous or nonferrous. Ferrous minerals like iron ore, manganese and chromite possess iron ore while a nonferrous minerals does not possess iron but may contain some other metal such as gold, silver, copper or lead.
(ii) Nonmetallic minerals: The minerals without any metal are called nonmetallic minerals as is obvious from the name itself. Examples of such minerals are Limestone, mica, and gypsum. These type of minerals also include mineral fuels like coal and petroleum.
Generally, rather usually, minerals are extracted from ores which are rocks with a high concentration of a particular mineral. Metals are often extracted from their ores by smetting (process of heating beyond the melting point).
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India’s mineral resources
India has a wide variety of minerals. Although the mountains and alluvial plains or northern India are comparatively poor in minerals, the plateau regions, mainly Chhotanagpur Plateau, have the highest concentration of minerals in India.
Distribution and use of minerals
Iron ore: Iron ore, the most significant metallic mineral, issued for making steel. India has got a place in the list of world’s leading producers of iron ore. At the one hand the states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa lead in the production of iron ore, and at the other states like Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra also produce iron ore. India has earned the status of a leading exporter of iron ore because of the high quality of its iron ore.
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Mangenese: Mangenese, a ferrous mineral, is used in the manufacturing of steel and many other alloys. Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra are the main manganese producing States. India, a leading producer of manganese, exports a large portion of its total production.
Bauxite: Bauxite, a nonferrous mineral, is the ore from which aluminium isextracted; it is an important metal because it combines the potency of metals such as iron with extreme lightness and also with good conductivity and mervellous malleability.
Alluminium is used in manufacturing of aeroplanes, automobiles, electric wires, paints, utensils, and many other things. In India, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra are the leading bauxite-producer States. India, being a leading producer of bauxite, exports a large part of its total production.
Copper: Copper, a nonferrous mineral, is used mostly in the manufacturing of electric wires and machines because it is malleable, ductile and a good conductor, it is also used in chemical industry.
As India does not have enough reserves of this mineral, the country has to import this metal to meet the domestic requirements. Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh are the chief copper producing States.
Mica: Mica, a non-metallic mineral, is made up of series of plates or leaves. As a non conductor electricity, mica has got an important place in the electric and electronic goods industries. It is also used in making paints, varnishes etc. India is the largest producer and exporter of mica in the world; the export of mica accounts for more than half of the world’s production and exports most of its own total production. Jhaekan leads in the production of mica in the country; puby mica, a rare variety, is also produced in Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh are other important mica-producing States.
Gold: Gold, a metallic mineral, is commonly used for making jwellery. India’s annual production of this mineral is low as it has very limited reserves of gold. Gold mines in the country are confined to the kolar areas in Karnataka, where mining is very expensive because the mines are among the deepest in the world.
Diamond: The precious stone diamond, a metallic mineral, is used in making jwellery; it is also used to make various instruments. Being very hard they are used in drilling hard rocks and cutting glasses. Production in once famous Panna mines of Madhya Pradesh and Golconda mines in Andhra Pradesh has reduced considerably. However, the diamond-processing industry is well developed in Surat (Gujarat) due to which India imports diamonds for processing and exports those processed diamonds.
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Chromite: It is the ore from which chromium is extracted that is used in manufacturing high-grade steel and to plate iron objects to make them rust-proof. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa and Jharkhand are the main chromite producing States. India exports most of its production of this mineral.
Limestone: Limestone, a non-metallic mineral, is a useful resource that is used in the smelting of iron ore in the production of cement and mortar. Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu are the major limestone-producing States of India.
Gypsum: Gypsum, non-metallic mineral, contains calcium and sulpher. It is used in manufacturing cement, fertilizers and sulpheric acid. India’s leading gypsum-producing State are Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Salt: Salt, a non-metallic mineral, is obtained from seas, lakes and rocks. It is used in chemical industry and added to food. India is one of the largest producers and exports of Salt in the world. By evaporating sea water salt is produced in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Salt is also extracted from Lake Sambhar in Rajasthan. In Himachal Pradesh rock salt is produced.
Although India does produce very limited amount of lead, zinc and silver, the quantities are not enough to meet the requirements of the country.
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