Everyone Uses Minerals

Minerals are vital to the way we live – in homes, food production, transport and infrastructure, at work and play. The minerals we use in New Zealand must be either mined or recycled, in New Zealand or abroad.

Life in cities, and elsewhere, would be inconceivable without cement and steel. These commodities, with aggregates (gravel), are used in the construction of buildings and infrastructure including hydro and wind electricity generation and transmission; roads, bridges, overpasses, tunnels; sea and airports; seawalls and flood control schemes; sports and recreation facilities; the oil refinery; and in mining.

The challenge with these bulk commodities is to get them at a good price, and that favours local production, where possible. Transportation costs, and associated emissions, are always significant with bulk commodities.  New Zealand manufactures and imports cement, and manufactures steel at Glenbrook in South Auckland for export and domestic consumption. We also import steel to make up the shortfall in domestic supply. Coal is a key ingredient in the manufacture of cement and steel, and is also produced in New Zealand.

There are around 900 quarries in New Zealand producing aggregates and industrial minerals such as limestone and clay.

Globally – and here in New Zealand – there is a strong focus on more sustainable consumption of minerals, including better recycling and technology advances.  However, numerous economists and sociologists predict demand for minerals will rise sharply as the world’s population increases, people achieve higher living standards, and as we progress to a lower carbon economy.  For instance, around 16 minerals are required to make a solar panel, including copper, iron ore and phosphate rock.  The World Band report ‘The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future’ provides a detailed assessment of how demand for a range of minerals will increase.

What’s in my mobile phone?

The raw materials in a mobile phone come from a variety of mines, with some metal recycling as well. There are an estimated seven billion mobile phones worldwide. You can find a list of what they typically contain here:

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The use of gold in technology

Gold is the perfect commodity. It is melted, recast and beaten into everything from atom-thin sheets to wire thread. Resistant to rust and corrosion, gold is the world’s most reliable and durable electrical conductor, essential for computer electronics and satellite communications technologies.

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Coal supports NZ food production

Coal and gas in the form of heat are important in food growing and processing because coal in the South Island, and coal and natural gas in the North Island, are approximately one-third the price of electricity.

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