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Crystals of the mineral Pyrite from Peru
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Courtesy of Corel

Type of Minerals

So far, over 2000 minerals have been found, and every year new ones are discovered. This is a pretty overwhelming number of different types of minerals, however, you don't need to know them all to be a rock hound. In fact, only a few dozen are common within the rocks of the Earth's crust so it is only a limited number of minerals that you are likely to find in your backyard.

Minerals are divided into different groups based on their chemical components.

Silicate minerals
The most common mineral group on Earth is the silicate minerals, which all have the elements silica and oxygen as their primary components. Most silicate minerals form when molten rock cools. Molten rock at or near the Earth's surface cools very quickly and crystals stay very small because they don't have time to grow large. Molten rock that is deep underground, where temperatures and pressures are very high, will cool slowly allowing time for large crystals to grow.

Non-silicate minerals
There are many different groups of other minerals that are known as non-silicate minerals. Some of these groups form when magma cools, while others form when water evaporates away, or when other minerals decompose.


Last modified March 4, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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TES XXVI, 3 fall 2010 The Fall 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on rocks and minerals, including articles on minerals and mining, the use of minerals in society, and rare earth minerals, and includes 3 posters!

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