Metals are a class of chemical elements with very useful properties,
such as strength, malleability, and conductivity of heat and electricity.
Most metals can be pressed into shapes or drawn into thin wire
without breaking, and they can be melted or fused. Some metals
have magnetic properties, while others are very good conductors of
electricity. For example, gold is used in electronic equipment because
it is an exceptional conductor of electricity and heat and it does not
tarnish or corrode.
Metals and other minerals are essential components in such everyday
necessities as our homes, cars, appliances, and tools. Indeed, we find
ourselves becoming increasingly dependent on a vast array of new
technologies — computer information systems and global communications networks — all of which need metals. Metals are also integral
to the basic infrastructure of our society: transportation systems
(highways, bridges, railroads, airports, and vehicles), electrical utilities
for consumer power, and food production and distribution.
As the American population increases and our standard of living
advances, so does our need for metals. We now use three times as
much copper and four times as much lead and zinc as we did
The increasing need for metals in the United States is a
need shared throughout the world. The desire to raise global
living standards, coupled with a growing world population, will
increase worldwide demand for metals in the future. This demand
means that metal mining — the industry responsible for extracting
metals from the Earth for use in our daily lives — will continue to be
vital and necessary.