The Earth's crust is constantly moving up, down and sideways. This constant movement is applying heat and pressure to different part of the Earth, and over very, very long periods of time this action causes various minerals to form and others to change. Rocks are made up of a collection of minerals grains which have been crystallised or cemented together. The types of minerals found in a rock determine things like its colour, texture and value

Rocks are classified into three main categories, depending on how they were formed - sedimentary, igneous or metamorphic. Scan a picture and use the clue to position the photo with its correct rock type and location.


Sedimentary rocks form when soil, sand, mud, animal matter, vegetation and other rock fragments are washed into rivers, lakes and the sea. The sediment settles in layers which eventually harden. Sedimentary rocks also form when rocks are weathered by wind and ice.


Metamorphic rocks form when rocks underground come under extreme heat and pressure. This is caused largely by internal Earth movements.


Igneous rocks form as molten magma cools and crystalises into hard rock either underground, while making its way to the Earth's surface, or on the surface forming a volcano.

Alluvial Gold

Rock weather and break down releasing the gold into streams

Iron Rock

Iron ore deposits were deposited on sea bed in layer in the north of Western Australia.


Under great heat and pressure limestone can form into marble


Cooling magma has crystallised to form granite


Formed form plant and animal matter deposited on sea or lake beds and covered with sand or mud.

Valuable minerals which form in large amounts in one area are called deposits. If a deposit is rich enough in minerals to make it worthwhile to mine, it is then called an ore body. Minerals are mined in every state of Australia, however only 0.26% of Australia's land mass is used for this purpose. Metals such as aluminum, copper, gold, iron, lead, managenese, nickel, silver, tin, titanium and zinc are all formed from minerals.

Coal is mined extensively in eastern Australia and many products are made from Australian petroleum, including oil, gas, petrol and diesel. Uranium is an energy source also mined in Australia. It is exported to other countries where it is used for nuclear fuel. Australia produces most of the world's precious opals and is a major supplier of diamonds and sapphaires.

Australia also supplies building and industrial materials which are used for a wide variety of purposes. These include: basalt, clay, corundum, diamonds, diatomite, garnet, granite, gravel, gypsum, limestone, magnetite, marble, mica, salt, sand, sandstone, scoria, slate, talc and many more.

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Coal Producing area
Oil and/or gas fields

Special exploration teams are always searching for potential mining sites to meet the human demand for minerals.Teams include geophysicists, geologists and geochemists. They are looking for clues as to what minerals might be located below the Earth’s surface. This is done with the help of satellite pictures, aerial photographs and geological maps.

Government departments and communities are consulted before permission is granted to explore.

Geophysicists collect more information using ultra-modern equipment on the ground and in aircraft to measure the makeup of rocks found both on and under the surface. They look for differences in the density of rocks, whether they have  magnetic capabilities and whether they conduct electricity. The level of natural radioactivity, the temperature and the speed with which sound can travel through rocks are also measured.

With the permission of the land owner, geologists conduct a field survey and samples are collected by hand from the area and tested. Geochemists discover what lies underground by analysing the mineral content of the water and soil that is present in the area.

Diamond bit drills fitted to the back of a truck drill narrow holes up to 1.5 kilometres below the Earth’s surface. Core samples of rock from these holes are collected for more detailed testing. Further drilling and tests attempt to establish the shape and size of the mineral deposit.

Exploration teams must carefully manage the natural environment. They replant any vegetation they disturb during exploration and cover drill holes to make them safe and to prevent small animals from falling into them.

A large number of tests and feasibility studies are conducted on an area, sometimes for up to 15 years, before millions of dollars are committed by a mining company to establish a mine. The company must be convinced that the costs including exploration, development of the mine, environmental management and royalties to be paid will be covered, if mining is to proceed. Very few identified mineral deposits ever become mines, in fact, only about one in every 1,000 is established.

Using the information from the introductory screen and the pop up clues, drag the steps to the landscape in order.


Mining companies must decide the most cost-effective, safe and environmentally sound way of mining and separating the ore from the surrounding gangue (i.e. soil and rock that do not contain useful minerals). Click panels to see more.

Open-Cut Mining

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Strip Mining

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Dredge Mining

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Underground Mining - Longwall

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Underground Mining - Stope

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In Situ Leaching

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The boxes below show the major stages involved in one method of processing copper ore.
Match the descriptions on each of the photographs with number shown.

1 -  Copper

2 -  Mining

3 -  Mechanical

4 -  Chemical

5 -  Semlting

6 -  Casting

7 -  Refining

8 -  Pure

9 -  Export


Copper can be mined by both underground and open-cut mining methods.

Chemical Separation

This finely ground ore is then carried on a conveyor belt to a machine called a 'concentrator'. Here water and chemicals are added to the ore in a process called 'flotation'. Copper minerals separate from surrounding material and float to the surface by attaching themselves to bubbles. Waste material is left behind. The bubbles contain the copper concentrate.


Almost pure, molten copper is then cast into metal shapes called 'anode' and allowed to cool.

Pure Copper

The stainless steel cathodes, which now have pure copper metal sheets attached, are removed from the chemical bath. The copper sheets are ready for removal from the stainless steel backing plates.

Copper Deposit

This ore body contains minerals from which the metal copper can be extracted. A copper bearing mineral is one from which the metal copper can be extracted. Azurite and malachite are examples of minerals which contain copper.

Mechanical Separation

The ore then enters a crushing machine where it is ground as fine as talcum powder. This helps to release the mineral from the ore.


The copper concentrate is then processed further at a smelter by applying intense heat. This process is called 'smelting'.


The copper anodes are then taken to a refinery where they and stainless steel plates called cathodes are lowered into a special chemical bath which has electricity flowing through it. Copper transfers from the anode to the cathode and the end product is pure copper sheets. This process is called electro-refining.


Bundles of pure copper sheets are prepared for export overseas or sale to Australian manufacturing companies which use copper to make their products.

Land is used for many purposes including agriculture, cities, housing, roads, recreation, industry and mining. Every land use has some degree of environmental impact. Government statistics estimate 0.26% of land is used for mining.

Mining is undertaken to provide us with the minerals we need to make the things we use. The nature of mining means that it does impact on the surrounding land, water and air. Environmental staff are employed at mines to continually plan, undertake and monitor rehabilitation of mine sites so as to reduce and manage the impacts of mining.

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Conservation and Protection of Biodiversity

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Dust and Noise Control

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Mine Wastes

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Rehabilitation of Mine Sites

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Local Community Consultation and Involvement

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All of our current lifestyles rely on a great variety of minerals that come from rocks found in the Earth's crust. Some rocks are used with little or no processing by the building industry and for making roads. Other rocks are crushed and changed in many different ways to form other substances. These substances are then used to make many of the goods we use on a daily basis or to generate energy like electricity.

It has been estimated that during his or her lifetime the average Australian will use many tonnes of minerals.

Anna Meares grew up in Queensland, in fact in the mining town of Middlemount! She became Australia's youngest female track cyclist and our first to win an Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Athens games. She won a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. At the London 2012 Olympic Games Anna Meares won GOLD in the individual women's sprint. BHP Billiton is a proud sponsor of Anna's quest to "go for gold" once again.

We found Anna training at the Adelaide Super-Drome and will now take a closer look at her racing bike and discover why it will only weigh 6.8kg. How much does your bike weigh?

Explore the next screen to find out how minerals have been used to make Anna's bicycle and equipment.

Click to find the minerals used to make 7 parts of Anna's bike and equipment.


Gold has been treasured since ancient times.

Around 3600 BC the Egyptians discovered how to 'smelt' gold.

Perhaps the most famous Egyptian artefact is the funeral mask of pharaoh Tutankhamen created in 1223BC.

Gold has featured in many myths and legends such as King Midas and King Solomon or in fairy tales such as the 'goose that laid the golden egg' or the 'pot of gold at the end of rainbow'.

Our elite athletes aim for gold medals when they compete at the Olympic Games.

Gold is still highly prized and valued because of its rarity and unique properties.

Why not "Go for Gold" now and explore the wonders of gold. Simply scroll over the pictures on the next page to find out more!

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Back in Time

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Gold's Speical Qualities

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The Gold Industry Today

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Fossicking For Gold

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The production of Gold

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A Community Going For Gold - Gold For Medals

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Argyle Pink Jubilee

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Welcome Stranger

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Geothermal Energy

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Iron Ore

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Congratulations you have completed Minerals Downunder!



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