Natural Resources

 

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About 11,000 years ago, glaciers covered Minnesota. These glaciers left behind large amounts of sand and gravel. There are sand and gravel mining operations in nearly every county in Minnesota. You may not think of sand and gravel as a valuable resource, but without it concrete could not be made. Highways, roads, bridges and many buildings are made of concrete. Sand is also used along with salt to melt ice on roads and to provide better traction in the snow.

Silica sand is a very fine sand composed of quartz (a white to colorless mineral) and is mined in the southeastern part of Minnesota. It is used to make glass, as a source of silicon, and is used in oil drilling to improve the flow of oil to oil wells.

Granite and limestone are used in the construction of homes, buildings, roads and tombstones. These rocks are often mined in large blocks from a quarry. When granite or limestone is mined this way, it is called dimension stone. Look at the buildings in your town. Are any made with limestone or granite?

Peat is formed by partially decomposing plant material in wet environments, such as bogs or fens, where more plant material is produced than is decomposed. If peat is a plant, how can it be a mineral? Peat is the beginning of the fossilization of the plants. Fossil fuels, such as coal, began as plant material too. Peat is used mainly in the gardening industry, but it is also used for compost, turkey litter, absorbing oil, and fuel. Next time you are in the gardening store, look for peat.

These are the only minerals currently mined in Minnesota. Manganese, copper, nickel, and titanium have also been discovered in the state in minable quantities, but are not of high enough quality under today's prices to mine profitably. Exploration for additional resources, such as gold, platinum, diamonds, zinc, and lead, continues today in Minnesota.