What is Ore? - Definition, Types, Uses & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of Ore
  • 1:13 Types of Ore
  • 2:37 Uses for Ore
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Pier

Heather has taught high school and college science courses, and has a master's degree in geography-climatology.

Learn about ores, which are a special type of rock from which we can economically extract valuable elements and minerals. Ores are the source for some of the world's most important geological resources, including both precious and industrial metals and energy resources like uranium.

Definition of Ore

Unless you have some form of telepathy, you are probably reading this lesson on an electronic device. That electronic device and its associated battery contain any number of metals in its circuitry and components, and those metals all began their life as an ore. An ore is a special type of rock that contains a large enough amount of a particular mineral (usually a metal) to make it economically practical to extract that mineral from the surrounding rock. Not all minerals are found in a large enough amount in one location to make it worth it to remove the ore from the rock through a process known as mining. Ores can be mined in a number of ways, including strip mining as shown here at this uranium mine.

Strip mining
Strip mining pit

If there is a large enough amount present, the rock will be extracted and processed in a variety of ways (depending on the type of mineral) to remove the mineral from the surrounding rock. Once they are extracted and processed, the minerals can be turned into whatever products are desired, including the components in your cell phones and computers. One of the best known metals, gold, is extracted from gold ore like this sample.

Gold ore
Large piece of gold ore

Types of Ore

Ores are classified based on how they form. Some ores form from the cooling and crystallization of minerals within magmas, lavas, or igneous intrusions. These are known as magmatic or volcanic ores. Nickel, copper, and iron ores are typically formed from magmatic or volcanic-related deposits. Carbonate alkaline ores are formed from other igneous processes other than volcanic and activity. Rare earth element ores and also some diamonds are part of the carbonate alkaline group. As you can imagine, if ores can form from igneous processes, then they can also form from metamorphic or sedimentary processes also. Metamorphic ores often contain lead, zinc, and silver, as well as some iron oxides. Sedimentary ore deposits include banded iron formations, and gold, platinum, zinc, tin, and even diamond-containing ores that formed in sedimentary environments. Lastly, ores can form as a result of hydrothermal processes. These processes involve the exposure of rocks and minerals to extremely hot water, usually near oceanic hydrothermal vents or hot springs. Most of the world's gold ores, as well as uranium ores, formed from hydrothermal processes.

Uses for Ore

So what are some uses for ore?

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