Our planet contains a variety of natural resources that we rely on to survive. Some of these resources, including metals and precious rocks, are less common than others and serve unique functions.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase 'natural resource?' Many people think of something that comes from Earth and that we as humans do not make ourselves. The Earth has many natural resources, known as Earth materials. There are four main resources, and they include minerals, rocks, soil and water. These four resources work together to form and sustain the majority of life on Earth.
Although these four resources are the most common, there are other Earth materials that are important and unique. Let's examine two additional types of Earth materials, known as metals and precious rocks.
First, let's examine metals. Metal is a substance that frequently has a shiny surface, conducts electricity and heat, and can be melted and shaped. If you look around you, there is most likely metal somewhere in your view. Although we mainly think of metal as a construction material or a component in electronics, there is actually metal found naturally within the Earth. Metals are essential nutrients that organisms need to grow and survive and are necessary to maintain healthy ecosystems.
Most metals are extracted from ores. Ores are naturally-occurring rocks that contain metals and other minerals. A rock is considered an ore if it contains a large amount of the metal and if that metal can be economically extracted from the rock. Basically, there are many types of rocks that contain metals, but some only contain small amounts, so it is not worth the expense of extracting the metal. When extracting metals, people look for large concentrations of ores so that they can make the largest profit for the extraction effort.
Humans extract metals from the Earth for a variety of reasons. One of the most famous natural metals is gold. During the Gold Rush, people traveled across the United States in hopes of extracting gold from the land and becoming wealthy. Other natural metals include aluminum, which is used to make cans, copper for wiring, lead for batteries, silver for jewelry, and iron for steel.
Now, let's examine precious rocks. What does the word 'precious' mean to you? Although most of us do not describe rocks as precious, some rocks are. Precious rocks are stones that are very rare and have economic value. Precious rocks are also referred to as 'gemstones' or 'jewels.' These stones gain their economic value due to their aesthetics, or natural beauty. They are also very durable and difficult to break or scratch. Precious rocks are commonly used in jewelry but are also carved or inserted into artwork or furniture.
Precious rocks come in many different colors, shapes and compositions. These stones also formed in a variety of manners. Most precious rocks are formed when a rock is exposed to a change in temperature, pressure or interacts with another solution. Some stones are even formed within the molten magma of volcanoes!
One of the most famous types of precious rocks is a diamond. Other types of precious rocks include ruby, emerald, sapphire, opal and pearl. Natural versions of these precious stones can be very rare, so people often manufacture artificial stones that look identical.
Let's review what we have learned about Earth materials and some of the more unique types. Earth materials are natural resources that the land creates and supplies. The four most common Earth materials are minerals, rocks, soil and water.
Other, less common, Earth materials include metals and precious rocks. Metal is a substance that frequently has a shiny surface, conducts electricity and heat and can be melted and shaped. Metals are essential nutrients that help organisms survive, maintain healthy ecosystems and are extracted by humans for economic gain. Metals are extracted from ores, which are naturally-occurring rocks that contain metals and other minerals.
Precious rocks are stones that are very rare and have economic value. They are also referred to as 'gemstones' or 'jewels.' Precious rocks are very durable and are commonly used in jewelry. Although metals and precious rocks are less common than other Earth materials, they still hold importance and provide us with a valuable resource.
Once you've reviewed this lesson, you should be able to:
- Describe metals, ores, and precious rocks
- Recall four common Earth materials