What is the difference between a rock and a mineral?

A mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic element or compound having an orderly internal structure and characteristic chemical composition, crystal form, and physical properties. Common minerals include quartz, feldspar, mica, amphibole, olivine, and calcite.

A rock is an aggregate of one or more minerals, or a body of undifferentiated mineral matter. Common rocks include granite, basalt, limestone, and sandstone.

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Is glacier ice a type of rock?

Yes – glacier ice, like granite, is a type of rock. Glacier ice is actually a mono-mineralic rock (a rock made of only one mineral, like limestone which is composed of the mineral calcite). The mineral ice is the crystalline form of water (H 2 O). It forms through the metamorphism of tens of thousands of individual snowflakes into crystals of...

What are sedimentary rocks?

Sedimentary rocks are formed from pre-existing rocks or pieces of once-living organisms. They form from deposits that accumulate on the Earth's surface. Sedimentary rocks often have distinctive layering or bedding. Many of the picturesque views of the desert southwest show mesas and arches made of layered sedimentary rock. Common Sedimentary Rocks...

Where can I find information about mineral commodities?

For statistical information about mineral commodities, visit the USGS Commodity Statistics and Information website. For locations outside the United States, the USGS International Minerals Statistics and Information website is the best starting point.

How do we extract minerals?

The primary methods used to extract minerals from the ground are: Underground mining Surface (open pit) mining Placer mining The location and shape of the deposit, strength of the rock, ore grade, mining costs, and current market price of the commodity are some of the determining factors for selecting which mining method to use. Higher-grade...

What are igneous rocks?

Igneous rocks (from the Greek word for fire) form when hot, molten rock crystallizes and solidifies. The melt originates deep within the Earth near active plate boundaries or hot spots, then rises toward the surface. Igneous rocks are divided into two groups, intrusive or extrusive, depending upon where the molten rock solidifies. Intrusive...

What minerals produce the colors in fireworks?

Mineral elements provide the color in fireworks. Barium produces bright greens; strontium yields deep reds; copper produces blues; and sodium yields yellow. Other colors can be made by mixing elements: strontium and sodium produce brilliant orange; titanium, zirconium, and magnesium alloys make silvery white; copper and strontium make lavender...

What are metamorphic rocks?

Metamorphic rocks started out as some other type of rock, but have been substantially changed from their original igneous , sedimentary , or earlier metamorphic form. Metamorphic rocks form when rocks are subjected to high heat, high pressure, hot mineral-rich fluids or, more commonly, some combination of these factors. Conditions like these are...
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Date published: July 17, 2017

Rich, Attractive, and Extremely Shallow

No, it’s not a title for a new reality-dating TV show, but it is real science! It also describes the ideal mineral deposit.

Date published: April 14, 2017

The Top 5 Mineral-Producing States

In 2016, these five states led the pack in mineral production, accounting for about one third of the total mineral production value for the entire country.

Date published: April 7, 2017

The Top 5 U.S. Minerals by Production Value

In 2016, the United States mined $74.6 billion worth of minerals, and the following five mineral commodities accounted for 68.5 percent of that value.

Date published: April 4, 2017

EarthWord–Rock vs. Mineral

Ever wondered what the difference between a rock and a mineral was? This EarthWord should cover it...

Date published: May 6, 2016

EarthWord - Mother Lode

Happy Mother's Day from EarthWords!

Date published: February 15, 2016

EarthWord – Ore

The naturally occurring material from which a mineral or minerals of economic value can be extracted. Usually minerals, especially metals, are mined first in ore form, then refined later.

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Close up of Feldspar
March 23, 2017

Feldspar

Mineral: Feldspar
Primary Commodity: Feldspar
Primary Commodity Uses: Feldspar is one of the most common minerals on the planet and is mostly used for glassmaking and ceramics.

Close up of Rutile
March 23, 2017

Rutile

Mineral: Rutile
Primary Commodity: Titanium
Primary Commodity Uses: The vast majority of titanium is used in whiteners in the form of titanium oxide. Titanium metal makes up a comparatively small amount of the use for titanium, but as a metal it is used in metal coatings and medical implants.

Close up of Graphite
March 23, 2017

Graphite in Pegmatite Rock

Mineral: Graphite (C) in pegmatite rock
Mineral Origin: Ticonderoga, NY
Primary Mineral Commodity: Graphite
Mineral Commodity Uses: brake linings, foundry operations, heat-resistant lubricants, refractory applications, and steelmaking

Image shows a cubical sample of pyrite with a quartz crystal extending beneath it
December 31, 2016

Pyrite and Quartz

A sample of pyrite and quartz. Iron pyrite, also known as Fool's Gold due to its resemblance to gold, often occurs in quartz veins. Pyrite is an important source of sulfur dioxide, which is primarily used to create sulfuric acid, an important industrial acid. In fact, consumption of sulfuric acid has been regarded as one of the best indexes of a nation's industrial

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Image shows a sample of epidote and quartz against a black background
December 31, 2016

Epidote and Quartz

Epidote is a silicate mineral used mostly as a semiprecious gemstone.

Sample provided by Carlin Green, USGS. Sample originated from Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, and is 6.0cm in size.

Image shows a sample of augelite and quartz on a black background.
December 31, 2016

Augelite and Quartz

A sample of augelite and quartz. Augelite is an aluminum phosphate mineral, primarily prized for collecting rather than as a source for its industrial mineral components.

Sample provided by Carlin Green, USGS. Sample originated from Mundo Nuevo Mine, Peru, and is 3.7cm in size.

Image shows detail of dark crystals in marble
July 20, 2016

Diopside Crystals

Diopside crystals are made up of Magnesium, Calcium, Silicon and Oxygen, and are usually found in metamorphic rocks. These crystals have developed in some Cockeysville Marble from Texas, Maryland.

Attribution: Northeast
An image of calcite.
April 13, 2016

An image of calcite

An image of calcite. Credit: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

quartz albite zircon
April 12, 2016

Hammondville Quartz Albite Zircon

Zircon grains from a quartz-albite rock in Hammondville, NY. The grains were hand-picked from the rock, embedded in epoxy, ground to about half-thickness, and polished. Left: petrographic microscope transmitted light image showing cracks, inclusions, and age “zones” throughout the grains. Right: SEM (scanning electron microprobe) cathodoluminescence showing zones with

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Image: Cross-section of Calcite Crystal Covering in Jewel Cave
July 8, 2015

Cross-section of Calcite Crystal Covering in Jewel Cave

Jewel Cave is currently the 3rd most extensive cave network in the world. It is believed to have formed completely underwater, thus leading to the extensive coating of calcite crystals.

A cross-sectional view of the crystal coating can be seen in the center of the image, with the surface of the calcite crystals at the top of the image.

Image: Quartz Vein in the Gunsight Formation
August 30, 2012

Quartz Vein in the Gunsight Formation

Quartz vein in biotite-rich rock in the Gunsight Formation of the Mesoproterozoic Lemhi Group. Bluish green copper-bearing minerals coat the quartz vein. Pale pinkish cobalt bloom and white caliche coat adjacent biotite-rich wallrock.

USGS
April 7, 2008

What's the difference between a rock and a mineral?

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