Minerals, unlike other resources are non-renewable resources because once they are exhausted, they cannot be replaced. Mineral resources are grouped into the followings:
- Mineral fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas.
- Ferrous and non-ferrous metals such as iron, copper, tin, aluminium, lead and zinc.
- Industrial metal e.g. gold, mercury, diamond, silver, graphite and limestone.
- Ornamental minerals e.g. gold, silver and diamond.
Importance of Mineral Resources
- Sources of fuel: These include coal, petroleum and natural gas. They provide power and energy for domestic and industrial use. Petrol, from petroleum, is used as fuel for vehicles, and natural gas for cooking.
- Construction purposes: Some minerals like iron, aluminium and zinc are used for construction e.g. iron ore is the basis of industrial development and construction of bridges and houses. Zinc is required for roofing sheets and lead for water and oil pipes.
- Industrial development: Diamond, iron, copper, silver and graphite are useful for industrial development e.g. diamond, the hardest known metal, is used in cutting other metals, and graphite is used in making pencils.
- Sources of ornamentals: Some minerals like gold, silver, bronze are used as ornamental wares or jewellery. Gold is said to be the queen of metals because it is the most valuable metal used in making wrist watches, chains, etc.
- Sources of foreign exchange: Most minerals sold to other countries provide foreign exchange for development e.g. petroleum in Nigeria.
- Provision of employment: People engaged in the mining of these minerals get jobs as miners, drillers, engineers, etc.
- Provision of basic amenities: Amenities and infrastructures like electricity, pipe-borne water, roads and telephone are provided in areas where mining takes place, thereby promoting the development of such places.
- Provision of raw materials for industries: Various minerals are supplied to industries for the production of various goods e.g.
- Petroleum for refinery industries.
- Feldspar for ceramic tile industries.
- Limestone for cement industries.
Problems Resulting from the Exploitation of Mineral Resources
The exploitation of mineral resources can lead to the following problems:
- Soil erosion.
- Environmental pollution.
- Oil spillage.
- Loss of plants and animals lives.
- Increased cost of production.
- Land degradation.
- Reduction in agricultural lands and production.
RENEWABLE AND NON-RENEWABLE RESOURCES
Natural resources can be renewable or nonrenewable.
- Renewable natural resources: These are natural resources that are recoverable. Examples are rain, animals, plants, water, air, food and soil.
- Non-renewable natural resources: These are resources which when exhausted can not be replaced or recovered. Examples are mainly mineral resources like petroleum, coal, tin and copper.