Natural resources are the foundation for our lives and lifestyles.
What would our lives be like without mining? Imagine a world without transportation such as jet planes or railroads, without communications such as cell phones or radar, without decorative items such as art or jewelry, without buildings such as skyscrapers or parking garages, without defense systems items such as missiles or submarines, without medical care items such as X-rays or surgical tools. We wouldn’t have any of these things without mining and minerals.
Description: Because this group of silicate minerals can be readily separated into thin, strong fibers that are flexible, heat resistant, and chemically inert, asbestos minerals are suitable for use in fireproof fabrics, yarn, cloth, paper, paint filler, gaskets, roofing composition, reinforcing agent in rubber and plastics, brake linings, tiles, electrical and heat insulation, cement, and chemical filters.
Sources: Most of the asbestos consumed annually is chrysotile asbestos. Asbestos is no longer mined in the United States. Imports from Canada account for most of the U.S. consumption. Russia, Canada, China, and Kazakhstan are major producers of asbestos, with lesser production from a dozen other countries.
The tonnage of asbestos used worldwide is in a slow decline, as, for health reasons, many countries have restricted or altogether banned the use of asbestos. The decline is expected to continue.
Uses: Asbestos is used to make heat resistant products. Long asbestos fibers are preferred, and short fibers are worth only a fraction of the price. The former uses of asbestos in building construction (fireproof ceiling panels in schools, for example) have largely disappeared, although asbestos is still used in making asbestos-cement products, automobile and truck brakes, roof castings, and applications where the fibers are encased in other materials and are unlikely to become free-floating.
Roofing products containing asbestos (asphalt coatings) account for more than half of U.S. consumption. Friction products such as brake pads, and gaskets account for about another 20%. Asbestos is also used for some specialized concrete products.
Substitutes and Alternative Sources: No better material has been found, or manufactured, that is as versatile as asbestos. However, due to the serious health issues involved in asbestos use, a number of substitute materials are utilized. A variety of different manufactured fibers have replaced asbestos in many applications. These include carbon fiber, cellulose fiber, ceramic fiber, glass fiber and steel fiber. Other minerals, such as wollastonite, are used for some applications.
Background: "Asbestos" refers to a small number of minerals that are formed of flexible fibers, and have the useful physical property of being very heat resistant. Because asbestos forms as flexible fibers, it is woven to make fabrics for heat-resistant and insulating materials.
Chrysotile asbestos, the fibrous variety of the mineral serpentine, is by far the most important type of asbestos. It forms in metamorphic rock, that is, rock that has been altered by intense heat and pressure. Another asbestos mineral is called crocidolite. Crocidolite is a dark blue variety of the mineral riebeckite. Crocidolite occurs in metamorphic rock. Only about 4% of the asbestos consumed is crocidolite. Other, less important asbestos minerals in occasional use are amosite, anthophyllite asbestos, tremolite asbestos, and actinolite asbestos.
Asbestos has a very high melting point. This, together with the flexible nature of the fibers, helps to determine its usefulness.
Since the discovery in the mid-Twentieth Century that asbestos can cause a fatal lung condition, the mining and use of asbestos has decreased, and has become closely regulated in all countries.