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.
Beryllium (element #4, symbol Be) is a silver-white and very light metal. It has a very high melting point at 2349 °F (1287 °C). It is found in nature primarily as bertrandite, which is mined in Utah, or as beryl. The combination of its light weight and high melting point makes it valuable for making metal alloys which are used in electronic and electrical components, aerospace, automobiles, computers, oil and gas drilling equipment, and telecommunications.
Mineral Classification: silicates
Be4Si2O7(OH)2 (bertrandite), Be3Al2(SiO3)6 (beryl)
2.59-2.6 (bertrandite), 2.76 (beryl)
Crystal System: orthorhombic, hexagonal
Color: Colorless to pale yellow (bertrandite); green, blue, yellow, colorless, pink, and others (beryl)
Luster: pearly, resinous, vitreous
6-7 (bertrandite), 7.5-8 (beryl)
The most common mineral containing beryllium is beryl which is found in granites and special igneous rocks, derived from granites, known as pegmatites. Colored, transparent varieties of beryl may be gems, such as emerald (green), aquamarine (blue-green), heliodor (yellow), and morganite (pink). Some of the oldest known gems were mined by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, and Persians between 5000 and 400 B.C.E.
In addition to beryl, beryllium is found in the mineral bertrandite, which in recent years has become a major ore of this element. Bertrandite is found in certain volcanic rocks derived from granite.
Bertrandite ore mined in Utah makes up nearly all of U.S. production, which is about 90% of the world supply. China produces most of the rest, from beryl ores. Mozambique and a few other countries mine small amounts of beryl. The United States produces and exports large amounts of beryllium alloys and compounds, and thus is a net importer of ores, but a net exporter of finished beryllium products.
Small amounts of beryllium become available from recycling of beryllium-containing scrap.
Unlike beryl, in which the mineral can be identified by color and crystal structure, bertrandite mineralization cannot be recognized by the naked eye. Consequently geologic and geochemical evaluations are conducted on a specific area, followed by a drilling program to determine if an economic ore body exists.
After delineating an ore body, overburden is removed to within 2 m of the ore. In the 2-m cover remaining, drill benches are constructed on 7.5-m centers to take samples of the ore body at 0.6-m intervals. Information obtained from analyzing the samples allows cross sections and contour maps to be developed. These maps are used to plan the mining and processing operations.
After the maps are prepared, the remainder of the overburden is removed, and the ore is mined, typically with a self-loading scraper. Because of the irregular ore-grade distribution in the ground, the ore is mined from areas defined by drill data and placed in a stockpile in layers to obtain a more homogeneous blend. Further drilling, sampling, and assaying of the stockpiled ore is then performed to generate a map that delineates ore-grade distribution throughout the stockpile. On the basis of the grade distribution, stockpiled ore is selectively trucked to the mill for further processing.