What are minerals?

Minerals are naturally occurring substances which have a crystalline structure. There are many thousands of types of minerals found on earth and a quite a few found in lunar rocks and meteorites.

Minerals affect every aspect of our lives. The cars we drive, the paint on our walls, the electronic devices we use are all or in part made of minerals. Minerals are also vitally important to Australia, being our biggest export earner. Other export earners such as agriculture rely on minerals to survive.

All minerals have a chemical formula, and are classified according to their chemistry.

Luckily the most common 30 minerals account for nearly all of the earth’s crust.

The most common minerals in the earth’s crust are silicates, those based on silicon dioxide, and include quartz, feldspar, clays and olivine. Every mineral has a particular crystalline structure and many, given the right conditions, form attractive crystal clusters. Most minerals, however, are just found as grains in rocks.

Collecting minerals can be a worthwhile and rewarding past-time and there are many enthusiasts. In Queensland, the Mineralogical Society of Queensland caters for those interested in minerals of all types.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.