Silicate Versus Nonsilicate Minerals

It is worth noting that only eight elements make up the vast majority of the rock-forming minerals and represent more than 98 percent (by weight) of the continental crust (Figure). These elements, in order of most to least abundant, are oxygen (O), silicon (Si), aluminum (Al), iron (Fe), calcium (Ca), sodium (Na), potassium (K), and magnesium (Mg). As shown in Figure, oxygen and silicon are by far the most common elements in Earth’s crust. Furthermore, these two elements readily combine to form the basic “building block” for the most common mineral group, the silicates. More than 800 silicate minerals are known, and they account for more than 90 percent of Earth’s crust.
Because other mineral groups are far less abundant in Earth’s crust than the silicates, they are often grouped together under the heading nonsilicates. Although not as common as silicates, some nonsilicate minerals are very important economically. They provide us with iron and aluminum to build automobiles, gypsum for plaster and drywall for home construction, and copper wire that carries electricity and connects us to the Internet.
Common nonsilicate mineral groups include the carbonates, sulfates, and halides. In addition to their economic importance, these groups include minerals that are major constituents in sediments and sedimentary rocks.

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