Non-silicate Minerals: Chemical Classifications & Examples

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  • 0:09 Non-Silicate Minerals
  • 0:53 Carbonates
  • 2:21 Sulfates and Halides
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Simmons

John has taught college science courses face-to-face and online since 1994 and has a doctorate in physiology.

While most minerals are silicates, many non-silicate minerals are found in the earth's crust and are important as well. This lesson will use examples and describe the three major groups of non-silicate minerals, including carbonates, halides and sulfates.

Non-Silicate Minerals

Minerals can be classified as either silicate - that is, containing silicon and oxygen - or non-silicate - that is, lacking silicon. While most of the earth's crust is composed of silicate minerals, several non-silicate minerals are of great importance. This makes sense when you consider the relative composition of the earth's crust. As you can see on the screen, silicon and oxygen comprise well over half of the earth's crust by weight. That's a lot of weight! This lesson will provide examples of and describe the major non-silicate minerals including our carbonates, our sulfates and our halides.


I live in Central Kansas, which is a pretty dry climate. At one time, however, Kansas was covered by a great sea. Among other formations, vast amounts of limestone were formed from sediments in this marine environment. The limestone was mined by settlers to build homes and even fence posts.

You might wonder why settlers would go through all that work to make a fence post out of limestone. Back in the day, there were very little - if any - trees around in Central Kansas to harvest for lumber. Limestone is formed from a carbonate mineral. Carbonates are composed of the carbonate anion (that is, CO3-2) and one or more cations - for example, calcium or magnesium. The most abundant carbonate is calcite (CaCO3), also known as calcium carbonate.

Calcite is the major constituent in two well-known rocks: limestone and marble. Stalagmites and stalactites are limestone structures that are formed in caves. They're formed as the water evaporates, leaving the minerals behind. Stony coral is formed from calcium carbonate produced by resident organisms of the coral reef.

Sulfates and Halides

Gypsum, Colorado, is known for mining gypsum - that's a mineral used to make wallboard for construction. Gypsum is an example of what we call a sulfate - a mineral composed of the sulfate anion (SO4-2) and a cation. Like Kansas, much of Colorado was once covered by sea water. As the water evaporated, gypsum formed from the sediments.

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