Minerals in the home

In every home throughout New Zealand, an estimated 1000 different uses for mineral products on average may be found.

That sounds like a very large number, but consider:

  • Household ceramics include crockery and kitchenware, glasses and windows, tiles and paving stones, pipes and drains, toilets and handwash basins, as well as bricks and roof tiles.

  • Cement, mortar, concrete, grout, breeze blocks, plaster, and other masonry are further quarrying products. These are made of clays, gravel, sand, limestone, gypsum and other industrial minerals.

  • Minerals occur in paints and dyes: e.g., titanium dioxide, a by-product of ironsands mining, produces a pure white. 

  • For steel, consider cutlery and kitchen utensils; tools; taps and other fittings; curtain and towel rails; bedframes; furniture; steel reinforcing in concrete and other masonry; roofing materials; trusses and beams; whiteware; appliances; screws, nails and other fastenings; extraction fans; heaters; to name a few items.

  • Think of the copper in the electrical wiring and water pipes throughout the house; the aluminium in window frames, ranchsliders and flashings; brass hinges; manganese in the microwave; zinc galvanising on steel products used outdoors.

  • To add to the inventory, the home is full of electronics, in TVs, stereos, laptops, tablets, phones, appliances. Each contains a multitude of different metals, starting with copper, gold, tin, tungsten, nickel, palladium, and platinum. Add to that the many “rare earth elements”, lanthanum, neodymium, tantalum, europium, terbium, and more.

  • A radio can be made of 22 different metals, including many less familiar ones: barium, gallium, germanium, indium, niobium, rhodium, ruthenium, selenium.

  • Pens contain among other metals: cadmium, chromium, iridium, molybdenum, and osmium.

  • Salt is a mineral, as is baking soda. Toothpaste is made of minerals, and minerals occur in many household chemicals - detergents, cleaning agents, shoe polish, insecticides, weed killers, fertilisers.    

  • Without minerals, we would have no home life as we understand that today. All of the minerals mentioned have to be mined somewhere, or recycled. Fortunately, the planet we live on is made of minerals, and as resources become scarcer, mining technologies improve.