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N is for Non-metallic

For the purpose of classification, the mineral kingdom may be divided into three groups: fuels, metallics and non-metallics. The fuels generally are of organic origin and used to produce energy through combustion. The metallic ores are the source of common and rare metals, and commonly have a high unit value. The non-metallics, also known as industrial minerals, commonly are high bulk, low unit value commodities. Their physical and chemical properties are of primary importance in determining their application.

During any given year, the value of non-metallics produced in the US commonly is twice the value of metallics. The value of aggregate alone likely makes up half of the non-metallic production. The remaining non-metallics are divided among a couple dozen other rocks and minerals that are an absolute necessity for US industrial enterprises. Here are the relative values (shown by the size of the circles), monetary value, and some of the uses of the top dozen non-metallics. My favourite uses are listed last in bold type.

So what is your favorite use of non-metallic minerals?

Bill Langer is a geologist with the US Geological Survey. Email:

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