University of Illinois Extension
Environmental Awareness: Knowing Your World

Mineral Search

Minerals are not evenly distributed around the world. Minerals that are in demand for manufacturing and other purposes are often found in only a few places on Earth.

It's important to know these locations, because sometimes the governments of countries where certain minerals are found may not allow trading with countries that do not agree with some of their political policies.

Scientists usually have a good idea of how much of a mineral is available for use. This is called a mineral reserve. Some minerals may be around in enough quantities that their reserves are measured in hundreds of years. Others may be in such short supply that their reserves may be measured in decades or years.

Dividing into groups, have a group research one of the following minerals:

  • Coal
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Diamond
  • Crude oil and natural gas
  • Potassium

Other minerals can be used if desired.

Using encyclopedias or the Internet, locate where reserves for each mineral can be found in the world. Mark these areas on a world map. Note what the mineral is used for, and what country uses the mineral the most. Also try to find out how long known reserves are expected to last. Have each group report their findings.

As a whole group, discuss what would happen if a particular mineral was no longer available. Would the location of a particular mineral affect the availability of this mineral in the United States?


En Español

Water Rich Water Poor Natural Resources - Can We Use Them Forever? Energy and Ecosystems - Use Some, Lose Some Acid Precipitation - Are Things Getting Better? Global Warming Nature's Response

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