A mineral is a naturally occurring, inorganic substance with a definite chemical composition and a crystalline structure. Some common minerals are quartz, feldspar and mica. Man uses minerals not only to make household articles such as stainless utensils, reading glasses, and even precious jewellery, but also materials for constructing buildings and space shuttles.
With the growth of the mining industry and development of advanced extraction techniques, more areas are being identified and selected for extraction of minerals. This has led to concerns regarding the impact that mining has on the ecological health of the region and the people living in the area.
What are minerals?
Your ideal take-off for this trip would be this website for a basic introduction to minerals and ways in which they are classified into different groups. It also contains a list of different types of minerals with a brief description of each. For an interesting factsheet on minerals, visit this page. Explore this section to know in brief about the qualities of different minerals and their common uses.
The mineral industry
Different minerals have been used in different ways since man discovered them. In ancient Egypt, for example, royal women used the powder of lapis lazul as a cosmetic! Nowadays, the use of minerals is common in everyday items such as toothpaste, eyeglasses and some life saving hospital equipments. For a brief overview of different uses read the pdf article. It is an account of the history of mineral use in Canada, but you will get interesting information here.
The National Mining Association of USA lists some interesting facts about the mining industry and USA's share of the world production of different minerals. Visit this page for more details. To know more about the mining industry, especially in USA, visit this website.
You can also visit this website that provides you interesting information about some important mineral sites around the world.
Also visit this interesting link that tells you about the main minerals and their properties and also the major countries that produce them. You can get an idea of how minerals are so important in our lives, providing us with not only metal for making currency coins but also the most basic electrical equipment.
Also see this link - you will need to scroll down to 'Rocks and Minerals' to see a list of links. They will be useful for further reference.
Environmental impact of mineral exploitation
Different methods of mining have different impacts on the environment. For a brief description of different mining techniques and some common environmental concerns, visit the website. This can also be a good reference for your term paper on the subject.
Sustainable development and minerals
Sustainable development is the need of the hour if we are to provide a secure future for future generations. The World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable development as "... meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Abandoned land mines, mining in open areas, drilling for all- all these activities, if unplanned and not- environment- friendly also affects human health. Many organizations have brought these issues into public focus through their publications and campaigns.
Visit this website to know what sustainable development implies for different countries of the world. You will find some definitions of sustainable development vis-à-vis the mining industry.