Saturday, December 23, 2017

Earth Gifts 2

This is the second of two essays on the wonderful
bonuses we have received from the earth.

Concentrations of the earth materials we use are gifts of geologic forces – water, volcanoes, continental plate movement (subduction), pressure, time and heat.  These gifts allow us to play and live.

Minerals form in several ways
Minerals form within Earth or on Earth’s surface by natural processes. Minerals develop when atoms of one or more elements join together and crystals begin to grow. Recall that each type of mineral has its own chemical makeup. Therefore, what types of minerals form in an area depends in part on which elements are present there. Temperature and pressure also affect which minerals form.

Water evaporates. Water usually has many substances dissolved in
it. Minerals can form when the water evaporates. For example, when salt water evaporates, the atoms that make up halite, which is used as table salt, join to form crystals. Other minerals form from evaporation too, depending on the substances dissolved in the water. The mineral gypsum often forms as water evaporates.

Hot water cools. As hot water within Earth’s crust moves through rocks, it can dissolve minerals. When the water cools, the dissolved minerals separate from the water and become solid again. In some cases, minerals are moved from one place to another. Gold can dissolve in hot water that moves through the crust. As the water cools and the gold becomes solid again, it can fill cracks in rocks. In other cases, the minerals that form are different from the ones that dissolved. Lead from the mineral galena can later become part of the mineral wulfenite as atoms join together into new minerals.

Molten rock cools. Many minerals grow from magma.  Magma— molten rock inside Earth—contains all the types of atoms that are found in minerals. As magma cools, the atoms join together to form different minerals. Minerals also form as lava cools. Lava is molten rock that has reached Earth’s surface. Quartz is one of the many minerals that crystallize from magma and lava.

Heat and pressure cause changes. Heat and pressure within Earth cause new minerals to form as bonds between atoms break and join again. The mineral garnet can grow and replace the minerals chlorite and quartz as their atoms combine in new ways. The element carbon is present in some rocks. At high temperatures carbon forms the mineral graphite, which is used in pencils.

Organisms produce minerals. A few minerals are produced by living things. For example, ocean animals such as oysters and clams produce calcite and other carbonate minerals to form their shells. Even you produce minerals. Your body produces one of the main minerals in your bones and teeth—apatite.

There is a wonderful interesting way to look at the gifts of natural resources that the earth gives to us.  It can be found in this paper:
“Thermodynamic Approach to Evaluate the Criticality of Raw Materials and Its   Application through a Material Flow Analysis in Europe”
Guiomar Calvo, Alicia Valero and Antonio Valero

Thermodynamic rarity  .  .  .  is understood as the free natural bonus provided by nature for having minerals concentrated in mines instead of dispersed throughout the crust (from Thanatia to the mine).

There is a free natural bonus represented by the exergy replacement cost (ERC), defined as the exergy that would be needed to extract a mineral from ordinary rocks (Thanatia state) to the conditions of concentration and composition found in the mine, using prevailing technology.

Exergy is the energy that is available to be used

To obtain ERC values of each mineral, the first step is to calculate the minimum
concentration of exergy required to reconcentrate a completely dispersed mineral in Thanatia back to the initial mine conditions. .  .  . Thermodynamic rarity varies from mineral to mineral, as is a function of a mineral’s absolute scarcity in nature and the state of technology.   

The exergoecology method uses exergy as a yardstick as it does not depend on market and reflects both the quantity and quality of extracted minerals. Exergy measures the degree of thermodynamic distinction a material piece has from its surrounding commonness. Therefore, it allows to physically measure the “rarity” of a piece of matter since the rarer it is, the more it stands out (Valero and Valero 2014). pg. 3


I took some of the minerals needed for our “future” and applied the Exergy Replacement Costs (see paragraphs above) to them.  I converted them to tonnes of oil equivalent, researched the tonnes mined in 2014 and found the contribution of the earth in pressure, time, geologic movement, heat and life sources to the gifts of concentrated minerals in mines.

As In the above essay on fossil fuels, we have received huge gifts of energy from our home.

In 2016 the world used more than 35 billion barrels a year.
Just this contribution of the Earth
   (not including the many other minerals and resources)
equals 99 times the oil the world used in 2016



Web of Life

The Web of Life
4.5 billion years of great drama;
a great concert orchestrated,
an interweaving of many parts
large and small. 
A magnificent gift-
veins of blood
veins of gold,
worms and vines,
swamps and volcanoes
tides and trees
 poems and planes
rivers and roses. 
The Web is each of these many things.
Beyond these, it is everything.
John Weber  2017



  1. Please correct the spelling of "GERMANIUM". (You may delete this comment.)It would be good to include the conversion factor from tonnes of oil to barrels, so anyone can check your maths.

    1. Thank you for catching my typing error. Will change when I have time. and will look at what I used. The math part of this is always difficult for me. 1 toe = 7.33 barrel of oil equivalent

    2. lathe Chuck - I made the spelling changes. As for the number of tonnes of oil to barrels, I count on conversion on the internet. This time I came up with 6.85. This is off. The magnitude is important to me. Again, thank you for your suggestions.

  2. John, great work on these two posts- and thanks for pointing out the exergy, thermodynamic aspect of resource depletion as described by Valero and Valero. We aren't going to run out of minerals, we are just going to diffuse them so much, they are worthless to us!

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  4. Great blog amigo! Do you have a position on the abiotic origins of oil? cheers, b

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