Are Minerals a Renewable Resource? (2022)

Are Minerals a Renewable Resource? (1)

With the continued industrialization of countries around the world, we’re consuming more mineral resources with every passing year. As we become increasingly reliant on these minerals it’s worth knowing whether or not these resources are renewable, so I did some research on the topic.

Minerals are not a renewable resource. There are only finite amounts of each mineral, and since they are not naturally replenished or created fast enough to keep up with human consumption they are considered to be a non-renewable resource. However, most minerals can be recycled and re-used.

Minerals vary wildly in both their availability and their uses. Some are easily recyclable and can be reused almost endlessly, while some can only be consumed once. Understanding how these resources are used is key to our responsible management of these minerals.

What is a Renewable Resource?

A renewable resource is any natural resource that can naturally be replenished over a human time scale. They are virtually inexhaustible because of the speed and scale at which they are produced.

(Video) Are minerals renewable

Examples of renewable resources include solar energy, wood, wind power, and geothermal energy. All of these resources are relatively quickly produced in such vast quantities that it is inconceivable that humans could ever exhaust them.

Let’s use wood as our primary example. The world consumes vast quantities of wood every year, and while the rate of growth is slowing we consume more and more of it every year. So why haven’t we run out of it? Well, forests grow naturally and humans plant millions of trees each year. One a global scale, the amount of wood that grows on those trees (coupled with recycling efforts) is more than enough to keep pace with human consumption.

Minerals do not fit the definition of a renewable resource because there is only so much of each of them, and more are not being made. If we extract all of the gold in the world out of the ground, more won’t be produced to be harvested next year. There are no natural processes that create minerals that quickly enough to even come close to keeping pace with the rate humans use them.

Don’t New Minerals Form Every Day?

Some people might argue that minerals are indeed a renewable resource because minerals are still forming every day through natural geologic processes. While this is true, it ignores the need for renewable resources to be produced quickly.

When we as a society exploit mineral resources it is on a massive scale. This is necessary to produce as many supplies and products that we demand on a global level. So, for example, when we strip mine for bauxite to help in the manufacturing of aluminum we are extracting an enormous amount of material from the earth.

(Video) Difference between Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources

The time it takes to extract these mineral resources is minuscule compared to the time it took to create them. The geologic processes that are responsible for the formation of virtually any type of significant mineral deposits take millions of years. However, once humans discover and decide to exploit those mineral deposits it is usually only a matter of several years before they are completely exhausted.

This gets down to the issue of a ‘human time scale’. A human life (and really the entire existence of humanity) is a blink of an eye on a geologic time scale. We can consume an enormous amount of resources compared to the length of our life spans.

To maintain our standard of living, each person in the United States requires over38,449 poundsof minerals each year.

-Americangeosciences.org

What Minerals Can Be Reused?

Thankfully, many of the mineral resources that we use every day can be recycled and reused. This reduces the need for additional industrial mining and cuts down on the amount of waste we produce as a society.

Pure metals such as gold, copper, iron, silver, nickel, manganese, chromium, and aluminum are great examples of recyclable minerals. They can be reused indefinitely without any loss in quality or integrity. As long as they are recycled there is no need to replace them with additional mining.

(Video) MINERAL RESOURCES

Many minerals used in building and construction can also be reused. Gypsum, for example, is used to make drywall and can be used many times for similar purposes. The same can be said for various types of clays that go into bricks and the various minerals that are used to create concrete.

While these types of minerals can be reused, there is often a practical limit to how many times that will be done. For example, once they are reduced to concrete it becomes impractical to separate them for reuse of that concrete is ever torn up.

What Minerals Can’t Be Reused?

Unfortunately for us, some minerals cannot be reused indefinitely. These are mainly minerals that are used for their chemical properties (as opposed to their physical ones).

Minerals used for their energy in nuclear power plants are not recyclable. These minerals include plutonium, uranium, and thorium. Once the energy from these minerals is depleted they are no longer useful for that process and have to be disposed of. This process is often expensive and environmentally risky.

While not technically ‘minerals’ in the geologic sense, petroleum products are often referred to as mineral resources. Oil, coal, and natural gas are definitely non-renewable and are not reusable. Once they are consumed and their energy is expended they cannot be used again. It takes millions of years to naturally produce more, so we only have a finite amount to work with.

(Video) GEOLOGY and NON RENEWABLE MINERAL RESOURCES by Chika Rosales

Will We Eventually Run Out?

We’ve established that minerals are a finite, non-renewable resource. There won’t be any more of them being made – ever. At least on a time scale that we humans care about. So does that mean that we are doomed to run out of them at some point?

The good news is that we probably don’t have to worry about running out of minerals any time soon. The minerals that we use every day are generally so common that it is unlikely that we’ll ever run out of them, especially if they are responsibly managed and recycled.

However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to worry about specific mineral shortages. Some minerals are only produced on an industrial level in certain places. If the countries that own those deposits decide to stop exporting them to the rest of the world could feel the pinch.

One of the best documented cases of this happening was in 2010 when China cut their exports of rare earth minerals. At the time, they were responsible for the vast majority of the worlds supply of these minerals which are used in batteries and other technological applications. Prices shot through the roof, and other countries subsequently began to develop their own rare earth mineral mining endeavors.

It is also possible that it is no longer economically viable to continue to mine for some minerals. But the good news there is that that means the demand is no longer there to necessitate their extraction. We can usually find alternatives to using certain minerals if they become depleted or too expensive.

(Video) Minerals and metals are (a) biodegradable resources (b) renewable (...

Extraterrestrial Minerals

It seems like something out of science fiction, but it’s not so far fetched. While the amount of any single type of mineral available to us here on Earth is finite, there may be more of it to be harvested from other planets, asteroids, or comets.

Platinum in particular is probably the most promising target for this type of endeavor. It is exceptionally rare and useful on Earth, but it is possible that there are asteroids that contain large quantities of it. The technology is still a long way off, but it’s not hard to imagine a time in the not-so-distant future where companies or countries are harvesting asteroids for economic gain.

As human civilization continues to expand on Earth (and beyond) it is likely that we will be able to add the combined mineral resources of other planets and asteroids to our list of useable mineral deposits.

FAQs

Are minerals a renewable? ›

Minerals, used for making metals, are also nonrenewable natural resources. Nonrenewable natural resources are things that take longer than a person's lifespan to be replaced. In fact, they can take millions of years to form.

Why is minerals a renewable resource? ›

Minerals are not a renewable resource. A resource is only renewable if the rate at which it's extracted and depleted is less than the rate at which it can be replenished. There is a finite amount of minerals because they come from the earth and their formation can take millions of years.

What minerals are non-renewable? ›

Non-renewable resources are mineral and energy resources such as coal, oil, gold, and copper that take a long period of time to produce. 1. Metallic Mineral Resources – iron, copper, aluminum 2. Nonmetallic Mineral Resources – salt, gypsum, clay, sand, phosphates, water and soil.

Why are minerals considered a nonrenewable resource? ›

Minerals and metals are non-renewable resources because they are formed by geological processes over a long period.

Which resource is renewable? ›

Renewable resources include solar energy, wind, falling water, the heat of the earth (geothermal), plant materials (biomass), waves, ocean currents, temperature differences in the oceans and the energy of the tides.

Are rocks and minerals renewable? ›

Examples of non-renewable resources include minerals such as rocks, metals, gems, and sand. Fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) are also non- renewable. While these materials are generated by natural processes and can therefore eventually be “regenerated,” these processes take thousands or millions of years.

Which of the following is not a renewable resource? ›

Hydrocarbon fuels include coal, fossil fuels, crude oil, natural gas, and others. These are non-renewable energy sources.

Is gold a renewable mineral? ›

Earth minerals and metal ores like gold, silver, and iron are sometimes also considered to be nonrenewable resources since they're similarly formed from geological processes that span millions of years. On the other hand, renewable resources include solar power, wind power, and sustainably harvested timber.

Are minerals and metals non-renewable? ›

Most fossil fuels, minerals, and metal ores are nonrenewable resources. The opposite of nonrenewable resources is renewable ones, whose supplies are abundant and are considered sustainable.

What are considered minerals? ›

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.

Is soil a renewable resource? ›

Soil is a non-renewable resource; its preservation is essential for food security and our sustainable future.

Is oil a renewable? ›

Fossil energy sources, including oil, coal and natural gas, are non-renewable resources that formed when prehistoric plants and animals died and were gradually buried by layers of rock.

Are mineral deposits considered as sustainable or renewable sources justify your answer? ›

Minerals are non–renewable natural resources that are vital for the construction, manufacturing and energy industries. The aim of sustainable mineral development is to ensure mineral use is kept to a minimum amount without having a negative impact on economic growth.

Is sand a renewable resource? ›

Sand is not a renewable resource,” Parkinson said. “When sand is eroded from the beach during a storm, it typically accumulates in offshore areas as a very thin layer that can't be dredge again to construct a new beach or dune.”

Is coal a mineral? ›

Coal is known to have originated from biological sources, so it is not categorized as a mineral.

What metals are renewable? ›

All the Metals for Renewable Tech

Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite are important for battery performance, durability, and energy density. Rare earth elements are in the permanent magnets that help spin wind turbines and EV motors.

What are the 7 types of renewable resources? ›

The most popular renewable energy sources currently are:
  • Solar energy.
  • Wind energy.
  • Hydro energy.
  • Tidal energy.
  • Geothermal energy.
  • Biomass energy.

Is Salt a renewable? ›

Salt is considered a non-renewable natural resource because the time it takes natural processes to create more salt is longer than the time it takes for people to use it up.

What are 5 examples of renewable resources? ›

Renewable resources include biomass energy (such as ethanol), hydropower, geothermal power, wind energy, and solar energy.

What are the 3 types of mineral resources? ›

Minerals in general have been categorized into three classes' fuel, metallic and non-metallic. Fuel minerals like coal, oil and natural gas have been given prime importance as they account for nearly 87% of the value of mineral production whereas metallic and non-metallic constitutes 6 to 7%.

Are metals renewable? ›

Metals are considered non-renewable due to their nature.

Are minerals recyclable? ›

Cost and quality: Some minerals are much cheaper and easier to obtain from their primary sources than from recycling. With the exception of glass,3 asphalt, and aggregates,6 recycling is limited for non-metals, especially stones, clays, salts, and silicate minerals.

Is plastic renewable? ›

Plastic is made from crude oil, a nonrenewable resource. Although the plastic we use can be recycled, the amount of solid waste generated by plastic is becoming a problem.

Is glass a renewable resource? ›

Glass. Recycled glass is another renewable resource. According to the EPA, 90 percent of recycled glass gets reused to make new glass products. Recycled crushed glass, called cullet, is mixed in with raw materials to produce new glass.

Is Sun a renewable resource? ›

Solar Energy

Sunlight is a renewable resource, and its most direct use is achieved by capturing the sun's energy. A variety of solar energy technologies are used to convert the sun's energy and light into heat: illumination, hot water, electricity and (paradoxically) cooling systems for businesses and industry.

Which among the following is not a non-renewable resources? ›

The correct answer is Nuclear minerals. Wind, Biogas/Biofuels, Sunlight and Natural Gas are all renewable resources while Fossil fuels like coal and petroleum, Nuclear minerals are non-renewable resources of energy.

What are renewable and non-renewable resources? ›

Resources are characterized as renewable or nonrenewable; a renewable resource can replenish itself at the rate it is used, while a nonrenewable resource has a limited supply. Renewable resources include timber, wind, and solar while nonrenewable resources include coal and natural gas.

Is wind a renewable resource? ›

Wind energy is a source of renewable energy. It does not contaminate, it is inexhaustible and reduces the use of fossil fuels, which are the origin of greenhouse gasses that cause global warming.

Are Diamonds renewable? ›

Diamonds are not a renewable resource. They are considered a non-renewable resource based both on their originating material and the length of time it takes for diamonds to form.

Is petroleum a mineral? ›

The mineral fuels—coal, petroleum, and natural gas—may be described as a special type of economic deposit. Geochemically they represent the concentration of carbon and hydrogen by processes that were initially biological in nature.

Is oil a mineral resource? ›

Mineral Resources include oil and natural gas, and commercially viable minerals and aggregate resources, including areas suitable for the drilling for and production of oil and natural gas, and surface mining activities.

Is metal a mineral? ›

Minerals are solid substances that have formed naturally in the Earth. They have a characteristic chemical and physical properties and usually a regular crystal structure. Most rocks that we see today are made of minerals (they are the 'ingredients' in rocks) and both precious metals and gems are subsets of minerals.

Why steel is non-renewable? ›

Answer and Explanation: No, steel is not a renewable resource. Steel can only be made from iron, which must be mined from the ground in order to be useful.

Is Diamond a mineral? ›

diamond, a mineral composed of pure carbon. It is the hardest naturally occurring substance known; it is also the most popular gemstone. Because of their extreme hardness, diamonds have a number of important industrial applications.

Is water a mineral? ›

Water does not pass the test of being a solid so it is not considered a mineral although ice; which is solid, is classified as a mineral as long as it is naturally occurring.

Is glass a mineral? ›

Glass - can be naturally formed (volcanic glass called obsidian), is a solid, its chemical composition, however, is not always the same, and it does not have a crystalline structure. Thus, glass is not a mineral.

Is fresh water renewable? ›

Although freshwater is largely a renewable resource, there are also isolated and local non-renewable groundwater stocks, whose consumption may directly lead to their depletion.

Is fish a renewable resource? ›

Fish and shellfish populations are renewable, but they are not inexhaustible. If the industry takes more fish from the ocean than are being reproduced, then stocks will decrease and will collapse.

Is Grass a renewable resource? ›

In general these resources have been grouped into two types: renewable resources and nonrenewable resources. Renewable resources may be defined as resources that have the potential to be replaced over time by natural processes.
...
Renewable ResourcesNonrenewable resources
GrassCoal
GroundwaterPhosphates
3 more rows

Will oil run out? ›

It is predicted that we will run out of fossil fuels in this century. Oil can last up to 50 years, natural gas up to 53 years, and coal up to 114 years. Yet, renewable energy is not popular enough, so emptying our reserves can speed up.

Are trees renewable? ›

Trees are a natural resource that are renewed. Since 1940, we have grown more trees each year in America than we have used for making paper, houses, books and other things we use every day. Almost a third of the world's total land area is covered by forests.

Is the earth still making oil? ›

It took millions of years for it to form, and when it is extracted and consumed, there is no way for us to replace it. Oil supplies will run out. Eventually, the world will reach “peak oil,” or its highest production level. Some experts predict peak oil could come as soon as 2050.

How do minerals affect the environment? ›

Certain minerals directly cause environmental hazards ranging from air and water pollution to contamination within residential communities. Mineral contamination effects include causing disease in humans and wildlife, befouling wilderness and streams, and contributing to global warming.

What are the problems of mineral resources? ›

Excessive exploitation of mineral resources has led to the following severe problems.
  • Deforestation and desertification.
  • Extinction of species.
  • Rapid depletion of high grade minerals.
  • Forced migration.
  • Wastage of upper soil layer and vegetation.
  • Soil erosion and oil depletion.
  • Ozone depletion.
  • Greenhouse gas increase.

Are rocks and minerals renewable? ›

Examples of non-renewable resources include minerals such as rocks, metals, gems, and sand. Fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) are also non- renewable. While these materials are generated by natural processes and can therefore eventually be “regenerated,” these processes take thousands or millions of years.

Why are rocks and minerals non-renewable? ›

Rocks and minerals are nonrenewable resources. This is because they can be depleted on a time scale which is much shorter than the timescale on which they can be regenerated. This is because it takes thousands of years for mineral deposits to be formed but a typical mine closes operations within a fee decades.

Are metals renewable? ›

Metals are considered non-renewable due to their nature.

Is gold a renewable resource? ›

Earth minerals and metal ores like gold, silver, and iron are sometimes also considered to be nonrenewable resources since they're similarly formed from geological processes that span millions of years. On the other hand, renewable resources include solar power, wind power, and sustainably harvested timber.

Is sand a renewable resource? ›

Sand is not a renewable resource,” Parkinson said. “When sand is eroded from the beach during a storm, it typically accumulates in offshore areas as a very thin layer that can't be dredge again to construct a new beach or dune.”

Which of the following is not a renewable resource? ›

Hydrocarbon fuels include coal, fossil fuels, crude oil, natural gas, and others. These are non-renewable energy sources.

What are the 3 types of mineral resources? ›

Minerals in general have been categorized into three classes' fuel, metallic and non-metallic. Fuel minerals like coal, oil and natural gas have been given prime importance as they account for nearly 87% of the value of mineral production whereas metallic and non-metallic constitutes 6 to 7%.

Are minerals recyclable? ›

Cost and quality: Some minerals are much cheaper and easier to obtain from their primary sources than from recycling. With the exception of glass,3 asphalt, and aggregates,6 recycling is limited for non-metals, especially stones, clays, salts, and silicate minerals.

What are considered minerals? ›

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.

Is oil a renewable? ›

Fossil energy sources, including oil, coal and natural gas, are non-renewable resources that formed when prehistoric plants and animals died and were gradually buried by layers of rock.

Why steel is non-renewable? ›

Answer and Explanation: No, steel is not a renewable resource. Steel can only be made from iron, which must be mined from the ground in order to be useful.

Is petroleum a renewable? ›

However, petroleum, like coal and natural gas, is a non-renewable source of energy. It took millions of years for it to form, and when it is extracted and consumed, there is no way for us to replace it. Oil supplies will run out.

Are Diamonds renewable? ›

Diamonds are not a renewable resource. They are considered a non-renewable resource based both on their originating material and the length of time it takes for diamonds to form.

Is Salt a renewable? ›

Salt is considered a non-renewable natural resource because the time it takes natural processes to create more salt is longer than the time it takes for people to use it up.

Is glass a renewable resource? ›

Glass. Recycled glass is another renewable resource. According to the EPA, 90 percent of recycled glass gets reused to make new glass products. Recycled crushed glass, called cullet, is mixed in with raw materials to produce new glass.

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