Metals are used in just about everything from the family car to your $10,000 road bike, to computers, door handles, windshields and smartphones, even tooth fillings and food.
Mining is an essential fact in our modern world and that isn’t likely to change soon or even in the very distant future. Gold, silver, copper and lead have been around for thousands of years and, while their uses occasionally change, they’ll likely be around and extensively used for thousands more years.
The bicycle — that greenest form of transportation — is completely manufactured from materials obtained by mining: steel processed by burning metallurgical coal, along with specialized metals such as titanium.
Your computer, tablet or smartphone contains iron, titanium, aluminum, copper, zinc, nickel, gold, silver, lithium, magnesium, mercury, yttrium, palladium, tin, cadmium, indium, lead, samarium, tantalum, gadolinium and dysprosium.
That DVD? Aluminum, gold, silver, nickel, polycarbonate petroleum derivatives and acrylic lacquer.
Here are some of the metals mined and refined in British Columbia and their uses:
Copper, like aluminum, is completely recyclable — most of the copper mined historically remains in use today — and it’s one of the first metals used by humans.
Copper has been around for about 10,000 years, and was first used in coins about 8000 BC. It can be stretched and shaped, resists corrosion and is used today in many domestic and high-tech applications. It is a very efficient conductor of heat and electricity.
What products can it be found in?
Copper is used in many areas, including construction, power transmission, electronic product manufacturing and vehicles. Copper wiring and plumbing are essential in today’s homes in heating and electrical systems, telecommunications links and appliances. Copper is also necessary in motors, wiring, radiators and automobile brakes, with about 45 kilograms of copper in luxury and hybrid vehicles.
Electrical wiring is the most important market for copper, including building wire, communications cable, appliance wire, automotive wire and cable, and magnet wire.
Copper compounds are also used as bacteriostatic substances, fungicides and even as wood preservatives.
Aluminum is a soft, white, lightweight and recyclable metal whose primary source is the ore bauxite. Its low density and strong ability to resist erosion makes aluminum vital to myriad industries, including aerospace. It is also very important in the automotive industry and in transportation, packaging and structural materials.
Where else can you find aluminum? Licence plates, residential siding and doors, window frames, hardware, cylinder heads, radiators, candy wrappers, trays, pop and beer cans, electrical products, photo equipment, pots, pans, utensils, paint and even baseball bats and golf clubs are just a few of the things that aluminum is found in. Even some guitars have aluminum plates.
Aluminum is also used in electrical transmission lines for power distribution, and powdered aluminum is used in paint and in pyrotechnics such as solid rocket fuels.
Some countries, mainly in Europe, have issued coins struck in aluminum or aluminum-copper alloys.
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