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The mineral industry conducts business related to using minerals, which are chemical solids that occur naturally in land formations. Minerals used in the industry are typically mined from the ground. The mineral industry mines a wide variety of minerals used for many purposes. Commonly known minerals include jewels like diamonds, metals like gold and silver, and building materials like gypsum, used frequently in drywall. Though the mineral industry is a profitable industry that produces goods for the economy, its presence in some areas can create or exacerbate money-related conflicts.
Sub-sectors of the mineral industry include construction minerals, metallic minerals, and industrial minerals. Many types of minerals are present in various land formations, so the mineral industry in each region and country can vary. The mineral industry makes up a major part of the economy in places like Colombia and Africa. Colombia is one of the largest sources of coal and emerald gems in the world, and also produces a great deal of gold and nickel. Africa is a well-known source of diamonds and also deals heavily in gold mining operations.
Minerals from the mineral industry are used in many fields and applications. The construction industry uses materials derived from minerals like clay and cement. Other minerals are used for jewels, in vitamins, or in manufacturing other products.
Industrial minerals are often mined for commercial use, including salts used for cooking, minerals used as medicine, or gemstones used for jewelry. Many gemstones used for jewelry can also work as abrasives in products or industrial processes. Though not generally thought of this way, coal is also considered an industrial mineral. Coal is a source of energy like natural gas or oil, but it is also a solid mineral mined from the earth.
The right minerals can garner a lot of money for the company that mines them, but companies that turn a major profit on minerals sometimes provide only poor conditions for workers and communities near the mines. In extreme cases, poor worker conditions in mineral mines can lead to explosions or mine shaft collapses that injure or kill workers. Mineral mining can trigger crises in developing countries, where competition for lucrative mineral resources has created militant conflict that can cause innocent lives to be lost. One well-known example of this is the controversial blood diamond, also known as conflict diamond, acquired from African diamond-mining countries.