Conservation of Mineral Resources – UPSC World Geography Notes

Mineral resources are depleting rapidly, despite the fact that their formation and concentration take millions of years. They are limited and non-renewable, with continued ore extraction leading to escalating prices and degraded quality at higher depths. The depletion of Mineral Resources is accelerated by the growing global population and its increasing demands. The entire process of exploration, mining, and subsequent processing into usable products not only has environmental repercussions but also results in substantial pollution. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize the conservation of our mineral resources. In this blog post, we will explore various ways to achieve this imperative goal.

What are Mineral Resources?

Mineral resources are inherently non-renewable, implying their irreplaceability once utilized. Therefore, conserving these resources becomes paramount. Several methods for conservation include:

  • Recycling: An immensely effective strategy involving the reutilization of mineral resources, particularly applicable to metals, glass, and other materials.
  • Reuse: Another impactful conservation approach is the repeated use of mineral resources. This involves utilizing products crafted from recycled materials or opting for products that can be used multiple times.
  • Reduce consumption: A highly effective method is to minimize the consumption of mineral resources. This entails using fewer resources such as water, electricity, and other essential elements.

Benefits of Conserving Mineral Resources

It is crucial to conserve mineral resources to guarantee their availability for future generations. Mining carries potential negative impacts on the environment, necessitating careful consideration of long-term consequences. Numerous reasons underscore the importance of conserving mineral resources, including environmental protection and the reduction of mining-related pollution. Additionally, conservation efforts contribute to ensuring these resources remain accessible for the benefit of future generations.

Several approaches can be employed for mineral resource conservation. Firstly, reducing demand through efficient use and recycling proves effective. Another strategy involves developing methods for mineral extraction that do not harm the environment. Notably, some companies now employ green mining methods, eliminating the need for harmful substances or chemicals. Collaborative efforts are essential for each individual to play a role in conserving mineral resources, collectively ensuring the sustained availability of these critical resources for years to come.

Process of Mining Minerals

The mining process plays a vital role in the conservation of natural resources, preventing the permanent loss of minerals. The process commences with prospecting and exploration to identify potential mineral deposits. Upon discovery, the actual mining operation begins, involving the extraction of minerals from the earth. Various methods are employed, including:

  1. Open-pit mining: The most prevalent type, utilizing large machines to extract minerals from the ground. Commonly applied to extensive deposits like copper and gold mines.
  2. Underground mining: Employed for smaller, deeper deposits, requiring the excavation of tunnels or shafts to access mineral deposits. This method entails potential hazards such as cave-ins or explosions.
  3. Placer mining: A surface mining method specifically used for extracting gold from riverbeds or beaches. It involves using devices like pans to separate gold from sand and gravel. This technique is preferred in regions with insufficient water for conventional gold extraction methods, such as open-pit or underground mining.

Metallic Minerals

Metallic minerals contain one or more metals within their composition. Examples of these minerals, such as iron, copper, gold, bauxite, and manganese, exist as deposits and exhibit excellent conductivity for both heat and electricity.

Ferrous Minerals

Ferrous minerals constitute nearly three-fourths of the total value of metallic mineral output.

  • Iron Ore: India boasts abundant iron ore deposits, with magnetite standing out as the purest form, featuring a remarkable iron concentration of up to 70% and exceptional magnetic properties. The primary industrial iron ore is hematite, containing between 50 and 60 percent iron. Key iron ore belts in India include:
  • Manganese: Essential for steel and ferromanganese alloy production, with approximately ten kilograms needed for one tonne of steel. Manganese also finds use in bleaching powder, pesticides, and paints.

Non-ferrous Minerals

Copper, bauxite, lead, zinc, and gold are examples of non-ferrous minerals crucial in various metallurgical, engineering, and electrical applications.

  • Copper: Malleable, ductile, and an outstanding heat and electrical conductor, widely applied in electrical cables, electronics, and the chemical industry. Significant copper production occurs in Balaghat mines (Madhya Pradesh), Khetri mines (Rajasthan), and the Singhbhum area (Jharkhand).
  • Bauxite: Formed from the breakdown of rocks rich in aluminum silicates, it serves as the primary source of aluminum. Aluminum, known for its high conductivity and malleability, is predominantly found in deposits on the Amarkantak plateau, Maikal hills, and Bilaspur-Katni plateau region.

Non-Metallic Minerals

Non-metals refer to minerals (non-metallic minerals) that are seldom employed as raw materials in metal extraction processes. Despite their limited use in metal extraction, non-metals, present in a diverse range of minerals, hold commercial significance. Non-metallic minerals lack luster or gleam and are recognized for their capabilities as good electrical and thermal insulators.

  • Mica: Comprising plates or leaves, mica exhibits a range of colors such as clear, black, green, red, yellow, and brown. This mineral plays a crucial role in the electrical and electronic industries due to its impressive dielectric strength, low power loss factor, insulating properties, and high voltage resistance. Mica deposits are commonly found along the northern border of the Chota Nagpur plateau.
  • Rock Minerals: Limestone, present in rocks composed of calcium carbonates or calcium and magnesium carbonates, serves as a primary raw material in the cement industry. It is indispensable for the blast furnace process, contributing to the smelting of iron ore.

Conservation of Minerals

The significance of minerals in the economy and daily life is evident as substances and objects derived from them have become integral to human existence. Minerals play a crucial role in both industry and agriculture, directly or indirectly impacting various aspects of human civilization. The non-renewable and unevenly dispersed nature of minerals, combined with increasing demand, necessitates solutions for their conservation.

Minerals, constituting only 1% of the Earth’s crust, are both non-renewable and limited. The depletion of mineral resources, occurring rapidly due to escalating extraction costs and diminishing ore quality with depth, poses a significant challenge. These essential components are pervasive in daily life, especially in the transportation industry, where they are vital for manufacturing and locomotive operations.

Misuse of minerals can lead to quick depletion, affecting future generations. Mineral exploration often results in the displacement of marginalized populations without adequate compensation. Recognizing minerals as a country’s most precious asset emphasizes the need for protection.

Minerals are crucial for all living organisms, with iron being an integral part of every biological cell, essential for hemoglobin formation. Other minerals like zinc, manganese, copper, and fluoride are essential in our diet. However, as finite resources, minerals require careful control and conservation for the future.


Mineral conservation can be achieved through the principles of reduce, recycle, and reuse. This involves being selective about waste disposal, engaging in recycling efforts, and reducing demand through metal recycling. Strategic and long-term utilization of minerals, technological advancements for processing poor-grade ore, metal recycling, utilization of non-conventional energy sources, and individual efforts such as public transportation use and energy-saving practices all contribute to mineral and energy resource conservation.

FAQs on Conservation of Mineral Resources

Q 1: What is natural gas, and what benefits does it offer?


Natural gas is a significant energy source, serving as a clean energy resource often found in conjunction with or independent of petroleum. It is utilized in the petrochemical sector as an industrial raw material.


  1. It is a clean-burning fuel.
  2. It emits less carbon dioxide during operation.
  3. It is increasingly replacing polluting fuels.
  4. Significant natural gas deposits have been identified in the Krishna-Godavari basin.

Q 2: Why does India have wind energy potential, and where are the wind energy sources located?


India’s extensive coastline provides significant potential for wind energy development, particularly in windy locations near the beach where wind turbines can be installed.

Locations in India:

  1. Wind Farm Cluster in Tamil Nadu (from Nagercoil to Madurai).
  2. Wind Power Plants in Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra, Lakshadweep, and Andhra Pradesh.
  3. Jaisalmer Wind Farm.

Q 3: Is there a compelling need for renewable energy sources in India? Why?


There is a growing need to increase the usage of renewable energy sources in India due to the following reasons:

  1. Depletion of conventional/nonrenewable energy sources, leading to increased dependence on petroleum and natural gas imports.
  2. Environmental protection, as renewable energy sources do not pollute when used.
  3. Cost-effectiveness, as non-traditional energy sources are more affordable than conventional ones.

Q 4: How did the discovery and usage of iron impact human life? Provide three examples.


The discovery and usage of iron brought about fundamental alterations in human life through:

  1. Agrarian revolution, introducing instruments like the axe, hook, plough, etc.
  2. Industrial revolution, introducing new tools and machinery such as spinning.
  3. Transportation revolution, with the advent of bullock carts, ships, boats, etc.

Q 5: Why is mining often referred to as a “Killer Industry”? Provide three reasons.


Mining is commonly labeled as a “Killer Industry” due to:

  1. High inherent danger involved in mining activities.
  2. Risk of mine employees developing lung ailments due to hazardous gases.
  3. Threats like falling mine roofs, coal mine fires, and contamination of water sources.

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