This is the end of our series and so for our last post, we want to answer the inevitable question: ”why should I care about mining in 2019?”
Mining is a large part of human history and modern technology. Humans have been mining stones and metals since pre-historic times and mining not only still exists in the United States and around the world today, but popular modern video games such as Minecraft and Factorio (among others) have become extremely popular just as simple mining games!
Smartphones are made of many materials, including metals such as copper, gold, lead, nickel, zinc, beryllium, tantalum, coltan, and gold (which is “combined with salt to be used as plating for printed circuits) and all of these metals must be mined from the Earth as raw materials!1 Smartphone batteries, however, are made of lithium ion, which is “made out of lithium metallic oxides and carbon based materials such as graphite or coke,” but is ultimately just “a processed form of the raw material, lithium, which comes directly from the earth.” Oddly enough, lithium is “never found in a pure form, so it is sometimes extracted from a mineral called spodumene, which is found in pegmatite, a type of rock deposite that forms when magma cools slow enough for large crystals to grow.” Apparently, lithium can also be found in “petalite, another mineral that holds lithium, but the most common source comes from brine which is water with high concentrations of lithium carbonate from which lithium can be extracted from and processed into a rechargeable battery.”1
Our economic and social infrastructure in the United States and around the world is dependent upon the raw materials that we extract from the Earth and use to build and power machines and technologies that we use in our daily lives. Mining has also had adverse effects on our environment, and there are some raw materials that are not infinite and we could run out of at some point in the future if mining rates stagnate or increase.
So, that’s a wrap on our Mining Monday series for now! Hopefully you learned a little bit more about the history and process of mining, as well as modern-day impacts including environmental, technological, and social dependency. Come check out our mining collections to learn even more!
Photo courtesy of George W. Tabor Photographs, University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives