Natural Resources, Mineral Resources
silica sands, iron alloys, tin mines, Roman occupation, pig iron
Britainís mineral resources were historically important, but today most of these resources are either exhausted or produced in small quantities. Britain currently relies upon imports from larger, cheaper foreign supplies. Before and during the Roman occupation, about 2,000 years ago, Britain was noted for its tin mines, which were concentrated in Cornwall. The tin was mixed with copper to produce bronze, an important material in ancient times used for weapons and jewelry. Today nearly every tin mine in Britain has been exhausted and shut down.
Britainís small deposits of iron ore were critically important to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly because iron ore deposits were located close to rich deposits of coal. When iron ore and coal are heated together, they produce iron alloys, such as wrought iron. When iron ore is heated at high temperatures with coke, a derivative of coal, it produces pig iron, a cheaper, softer iron that is more easily purified into the iron and steel essential for constructing machines and railroads. During the Industrial Revolution towns and cities sprang up close to these resources, and they remain among Britainís leading urban areas. Today Britain imports iron, along with most other minerals used for industrial production, although small amounts of iron, zinc, and copper are still produced.
Raw materials for construction, particularly aggregates (minerals mechanically separated from ores), are still important, and many quarries continue to operate profitably. Limestone, sand, gravel, rock, sandstone, clay, chalk, salt, silica sands, gypsum, potash, and fluorspar are all quarried.
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