ore, metal-bearing mineral mass that can be profitably mined. Nearly all rock deposits contain some metallic minerals, but in many cases the concentration of metal is too low to justify mining the ore. Ores are usually found concentrated in deposits with a definite gradation of metal concentration from the ore to the surrounding rock. The ore often occurs in veins, which are ore-filled fissures in the rock. The veins vary in thickness from only fractions of an inch to several hundred feet. Minerals with no commercial value, called gangue minerals, are usually found mixed with the ore in the vein. Some veins are buried deep within the ground, but others lie close to the surface. Veins of ore exposed to weathering are often eroded and redeposited in placers and alluvial deposits, e.g., ore-bearing stream and lake gravels or beach sands. Some ores are simple chemical compounds, while others are chemically complex minerals. Important ores of aluminum, iron, manganese, and tin are oxides; important ores of antimony, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, and zinc are sulfides. Some metals, called native metals, occur uncombined in nature, e.g., copper, gold, platinum, and silver. The recovery of metals from their ores is one area of the field of metallurgy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.