Minerals are solid chemical compounds that combine to form rocks. They are found in nature and vary in atomic bonding, molecular structure, and element composition, all of which determine their chemical, physical properties and permit their identification.

‑ An infinite number of chemical combinations are possible and almost 4000 natural minerals are known; however, only about 20 minerals dominate the Earth’s crust

Common Minerals: natural solid compounds found commonly in Earth’s crust

Silicates – most abundant; made of the silicon-oxygen tetrahedron (silica, (SiO4)-4) bonded to various metallic cations

ferromagnesian (dark) silicates:  contain Fe+2 and Mg+2 cations

olivine – covalently-bonded silica tetrahedra surrounded by Fe, Mg cations; Fe, Mg substitute for each other to form a family of minerals; pyroxene single chains of tetrahedra ionically bonded to metallic cations, nearly right angle cleavage; amphibole double chains of tetrahedra ionically bonded to metallic cations, 120° cleavage; biotite tetrahedral sheets ionically sandwich K+, perfect platy cleavage

nonferromagnesian (light) silicatesmuscovite – tetrahedral sheets with perfect platy cleavage; feldspar – strongly bonded 3-D network of silica tetrahedra, K variety is called orthoclase and Ca-Na family is called plagioclase; quartz – made entirely of silica tetrahedra (SiO2) covalently bonded, hard, has no cleavage

Carbonates – metals bonded to (CO3)‑2 group to form minerals like calcite (CaCO3; used for lime, cement) and dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2)

halite (NaCl; table salt) and gypsum (CaSO4· 2H2O; used to make plaster and drywall) are formed by evaporation of ancient shallow seas and salt ponds

Ores of metals include hematite (Fe2O3; iron ore), sphalerite (ZnS, zinc ore), galena (PbS; lead ore), and native gold and silver that are important to our economy


‑ many minerals tend to occur together because they were formed under similar pressure and temperature conditions, but with different combinations of elements

‑ minerals can be transformed into new minerals by being transported to another part of the rock cycle – the new minerals form from previous ones as pressure and temperature conditions change in the new environment

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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