Mineralogist Robert Kreckel of Vienna is a member of the committee that determines the mineral of the year. He says it’s almost impossible to make a move without coming into contact with metal. If you think about it, you might almost get paranoid, Krickell says. They are also present in areas that at first glance do not suggest this. For example, a radio is made of metals composed of metals and ores: “You need dozens of different metals to build a technical device like a radio.”
limestone to extract color
Metals are also necessary to make paper, for example to make it white. In Carinthia, calcite limestone is mined for this purpose in Gomren in the Villachland region. According to Crickle, it has been in great demand since Roman times, because even then were made stone monuments that can be found in archaeological museums today. Half calcite marble. “Limestone still plays a role today in many everyday applications as a white powder – from the abrasives we use to clean appliances or our teeth to the white that makes paper white.”
Hematite provides natural rust protection
According to Robert Crickle, colors were extracted from minerals thousands of years ago. Carinthia plays an important role because Waldenstein has a deposit of what is called iron mica which is unique in the world. Due to the physical properties of the mineral hematite, rust-resistant paints can be made. This is one of the most important Austrian exports.
Minerals are natural crystals. On the other hand, a crystal is a solid whose building blocks are arranged regularly, such as atoms, molecules, and ions: “a mineral is defined by the type of atoms it contains and their three-dimensional arrangement.”
Cold makes minerals visible
For example, crystals become visible when water freezes: “When it gets cold in winter, the atoms accumulate regularly and form a natural crystal, which is a mineral. Ice and snow are minerals that are not only very important to us in winter sports, but also an important part of our lives,” says Krickell.
Without minerals, says Crickle, there would be no life on Earth, and they are also very important for everyday life. He was a person fascinated by minerals his whole life. On the one hand, he does research and likes to tell people about the special properties of minerals.
Metals also have promising solutions
Minerals can be used to combat climate change and be a way out of the energy crisis. There are already a number of technologies that lead to the removal of carbon or from the production of fossil carbon dioxide. In order to be able to produce metals for batteries or accumulators for electric cars, for example, metals are needed. For rechargeable batteries, you need the element lithium, which is extracted from the general metal, spodumene – more on that in Minerals of the Year: Lithium Ore Spodumene.
Look for graphite deposits
The black mineral graphite is important in batteries. It is also found in pencils, for example. Austria was once one of the most important producers of graphite in the world. Extensive research is still done today to find local deposits in order to be able to mine them again. According to the expert, this is important for regional production without major transportation around the world and for future technologies.
Robert Crickle explains that metal recycling plays an increasingly important role these days. More and more traditional mining companies will operate what is called “urban mining”. Instead of looking for stones from the mountain, you can also look for minerals in the trash. It is often richer in valuable components, such as gold, than gold ores that can be extracted in nature.
Gold is in high demand as an electrical conductor
Gold is an important metal. It is not only used for jewelry, dental fillings or gold coins, but also plays a role in modern technology. Chips from credit cards or connectors on USB drives can contain it. Gold also has basic properties such as being a good conductor of electricity. It also rarely chemically reacts with other elements. In turn, silver, for example, turns black when in contact with air: “But gold remains golden, it shines and conducts electricity.”
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