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Why mining matters to home entertainment

Posted on 06 Dec 2012

Next time you jump on the couch for some serious face time with the latest Blu-ray movie, or for a web-surfing session, remember it’s not just electricity that’s powering your high-definition, surround-sound viewing experience—mining plays a part.

Mining makes modern living possible. Previous issues of the Queensland Government Mining Journal have revealed how the products of mining are in our kitchens and our hospitals. In this issue we discover the role of mining and extraction in electronic home entertainment.

Mineral and petroleum products are as important an ingredient to the information revolution as the invention of electricity and digital computers. In fact silicon, the basic building block of the transistors that power computers, TVs and mobile phones, comes from sand, one of the many resources mined in Queensland that we discuss below.

Flat-screen television
No matter what you’re watching, everything looks great on a big screen LCD or plasma TV. But you wouldn’t be able to experience those vivid and crisp pictures without:

  • petrochemicals for the plastic casing
  • zinc, silica, lead, platinum and silver in the electronic circuitry
  • mercury for the plasma display
  • tin and indium for the LCD display
  • silica for the glass screen.

Home theatre system
Your home theatre system makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action. To experience that awesome range of sounds, you will need:

  • zinc, silica, lead, platinum and silver in the electronic circuitry
  • silica and petrochemicals for the fibreglass speaker cone
  • steel (iron, carbon) for the amplifier’s frame and casing
  • copper for the wire in the speaker’s voice coil.

Games console
Video games are replacing movies and music as an alternative form of home entertainment. This interactive entertainment system wouldn’t be possible without:

  • silica for the LED laser which reads game disks
  • steel (iron, carbon) for the casing and frame
  • petrochemicals in the plastic hand controllers
  • zinc, silica, lead, platinum and silver in the electronic circuitry.

PCs and laptops
The PC or laptop has become as important to our daily lives as the mobile phone. This electronic marvel wouldn’t be possible without:

  • zinc, silica, lead, platinum and silver in the electronic circuitry
  • lithium for the battery
  • tin and indium for the LCD display
  • petrochemicals for the plastics and steel (iron, carbon) used in the casing and frame of the PC or laptop.

Tablet
The newest addition to the plethora of home entertainment devices is the tablet. This most-wished-for Christmas present of 2012 is made from:

  • zinc, silica, lead, platinum and silver in the electronic circuitry
  • steel (iron, carbon) for the casing
  • petrochemicals for the plastics used in the body of the tablet
  • tin and indium for the touch screen LCD display.

Blu-ray or DVD player
The latest Hollywood blockbuster looks great thanks to:

  • silica for the LED laser which reads movie and music discs
  • steel (iron, carbon) for the casing and frame
  • zinc, silicon, lead, platinum and silver in the electronic circuitry.

Blu-ray disks, DVDs, CDs
We take DVDs, CDs and blu-ray discs for granted, but they are made from:

  • petrochemicals for the polycarbonate disk
  • a thin layer of aluminium, gold or silver that holds and records the data that is read by the DVD player
  • petrochemicals used in the ink for the pictures and text printed on the disk.

TV antenna
Free-to-air TV has never offered more choices than today. With the advent of digital signals, we can enjoy many new channels, high-definition pictures, digital TV guides, high-quality sound, and even 3D TV! All this is delivered via the humble TV antenna, which is made from:

  • aluminium for the conductive element
  • copper for the wiring
  • petrochemicals for the plastic insulation covering the wiring.

Digital video recorder
It’s not always possible to coordinate our busy lives with our favourite TV shows. This is where the digital video recorder or DVR steps in: part hard-drive, part digital tuner, it is smart enough to record our favourite shows every week, and can even record shows it might think you’d be interested in! A typical DVR is made from:

  • zinc, silica, lead, platinum and silver in the electronic circuitry
  • steel (iron, carbon) for the casing
  • cobalt alloy for the hard disk platter
  • aluminium for the hard disk casing and frame
  • neodymium, iron, and boron for the hard disk actuator (read-write head).

Internet connection
An essential ingredient for surfing the information superhighway is a high-speed internet connection. Most homes will be connected with an ADSL or coax connection, both of which rely on copper to connect your PC to the world wide web.

If you are lucky enough to be included in the initial rollout of the new national broadband network, you will be connected via fibre optic cable which uses thin glass fibres (made from silica) to transmit high speed light pulses.

Power socket
Not one of these marvellous devices described will work without electricity. When you flick the switch to turn on your TV, or any other device, it’s Queensland coal or gas that’s probably powering your home.

Also, often invisible and tucked away underneath our TV cabinet is the ubiquitous 4-socket power board, made from:

  • petrochemicals for the plastic body
  • copper for the internal wiring and connections.

Community perceptions of mining can be openly negative. Changing those views is a challenge. The resources sector needs to improve how it explains the vital role minerals play in society—beyond the mine and into the lives of all Queenslanders.

We hope you found this information useful and interesting. Use it to explain to your family and friends how minerals benefit our ability to lead a healthy life.

Next year in the QGMJ
The Queensland Government Mining Journal in 2013 will be looking in detail at the surprising world of rare earths and the role they play in our lives and industries.

This article originally appeared in the Queensland Government Mining Journal Spring 2012, courtesy Department of Natural Resources and Mines, Queensland Government.


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