Mining is an ancient practice that has evolved into a huge industry, one that is poised to be key to humanity’s future as the use of electronics becomes more and more prevalent. After all, most electronic devices use some kind of mineral in their components. If you want to know more about this major industry, here are seven amazing facts about it.
1- Ancient History
Humanity has been using metals for about eleven thousand years now, meaning that the usage of metals started in the prehistoric period. Gold and copper are thought to have been the first two metals to be discovered. Gold, which in its pure form is soft and easy to shape, was used mostly for decoration, while copper was already been used for rudimentary weapons and tools at around 9000bc. The prehistoric humans also used silver, tin, lead, and iron.
2- Hidden Gold
Ever wondered if Earth is going to run out of gold? Minerals are, after all, a finite resource; and thanks to the industrial revolutions, humanity today is mining more gold out of the earth than ever before. China, the world’s greatest gold producer, mined over 460 tons of gold in 2016 alone. Meaning that in a single year they mined a little over half the amount of gold that the Portuguese mined out of Brazil through the entire 18th century.
So will we ever run out of gold to mine? Probably, but it won’t happen anytime soon. Because despite these numbers, scientists still estimate that upwards of 80% of the world’s gold still lays beneath the planet’s surface, untouched and undiscovered.
3- Fool’s Gold
Pyrite is well known as “Fool’s Gold”, due to its metallic luster and brass-yellow hue leading people to confuse the less-valuable mineral with actual gold. Chalcopyrite and biotite mica have also received the title over the ages, for similar reasons.
4 – Silver is Amazing
Silver’s impressive number of applications make it a much-used metal in today’s world. It is the most conductive element in the world, making it a prime material to use in electronic devices. On top of that, small concentrations of silver are known to kill bacteria upon contact, which has a range of potential medical applications.
5- You Use Minerals All the Time
Minerals are everywhere. The use of gold, copper, and silver in electronic devices is well known, but there is more. Much more. In fact, the average modern day electronic device has more than 35 different minerals in it.
Minerals are in your food, too. Zinc and iron are well-known mineral vitamins, and your kitchen salt is also a mineral. Thanks to food, electronics, and other mineral applications, the average American uses an average of 40,000 pounds of mineral every year.
6- Richest Mining Companies
According to 2015 statistics, Glencore is the world’s richest mining company. It earned 209 billion dollars in revenue. To offer some perspective, if Glencore was a country, that much money would put it at number 44 on the world’s GDP ranking for that year, right bellow Finland, and above Bangladesh, Portugal, Greece, Peru, and Vietnam.
7- Big Employer
The big numbers carry over to how many jobs the industry provides. In 2010, the industry directly employed over 3,7 million people worldwide, with many more indirectly employed by the industry’s demand for goods and services.
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