The International Mineralogical Association (IMA) defines a mineral species as an element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has formed as a result of geological processes. There are currently about 4,100 such species known. But minerals are more than just chemical elements and compounds. They are the building blocks of the rocks that form mountain chains and the sands of deserts and beaches. Minerals, and the rocks they constitute, record the history of the Earth and are the source of the metals and raw materials on which our everyday lives so greatly depend. Minerals are the enablers of civilization. They have been used by humans from the Stone Age through today. Minerals are useful for one of two reasons: They either ...

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