Mining, Natural Resources, and Energy: A Comprehensive Overview


A mineral is an inorganic natural substance, with a specific chemical composition, which is found in the Earth’s crust. Mining is extracting minerals from their deposits. It is a primary sector activity because products are obtained from nature. It is linked to the secondary sector because it provides materials for industry and construction.

  • Surface mining: it’s used when the mineral is near the surface and is used to mine metals. Quarries are used to mine rocks
  • Underground mining: it’s used when the mineral is at depth. It is expensive because wells and galleries must be excavated.
  • Underwater mining: Dredgers are used to mine the sea for minerals.
  • Drilling wells: it’s used in the extraction of fuel


Minerals, water, and forests are found in the environment. Consumption is high in developed countries. Less developed countries are producers of natural resources. The exploitation depends on:

  • Technology: it obtains natural resources in various ways and from distinct locations.
  • The benefits from a resource must be greater than the cost of its exploitation.
  • An unprofitable resource may become profitable if demand increases. The opposite is also true.


It transforms raw material into manufactured products.

  • PRIMARY: energies obtained from nature, such as coal, oil, uranium, solar, and wind power.
  • SECONDARY: energies produced from a primary source and fuels.

There is an imbalance in the energy produced and consumed.

  • The OPEC countries are world suppliers of fuels.
  • Japan and the European Union are consumers, with low production.
  • The USA consumes and produces energy. Due to new techniques, it’s increasing oil and gas production.
  • The consumers are emerging countries, China and India.

Energy which can recover naturally over time.


It uses the force of water to generate electricity. At hydroelectric power stations, the water is held behind a dam, forming a reservoir. The force of the water released turns a giant turbine, which moves generators and makes electricity. It’s the most common renewable energy. China, Brazil, and Canada are the main producers.

WIND POWER It can use different wind speeds and the production capacity is increasing. China, the USA, Germany, and Spain are the producers of electricity. Problems: the impact of wind farms on the landscape and the birds that are killed.

SOLAR ENERGY The energy from the Sun traps its heat and light in solar panels.

  • Solar thermal energy uses the energy from the Sun to heat water for heating houses. It generates steam which turns turbines and moves generators that produce electricity.
  • Photovoltaic solar energy uses solar cells to transform sunlight into electricity.


Wood was a key energy source until the 18th century. It’s produced by transforming organic materials into energy. The energy is used for heating or producing electricity. Biomass can be converted into synthetic fuels (ethanol, biodiesel). France is the largest consumer of biomass.


It’s the capture of heat from the earth at approx 3-10 km deep. The heat passes through a turbine that converts it into energy.

TIDAL ENERGY It uses the energy from the rise and fall of the tides, which are caused by the gravity of the Moon pulling the oceans. It needs tides and expensive infrastructures (underwater turbines). Energy can be obtained from waves or sea currents.


Energy exists in limited amounts and can’t be replaced.


Nuclear energy originates from fission, which is the disintegration of uranium atoms. The energy produced by uranium releases heat, which is then transformed into electricity at a nuclear power plant. It provides 15% of the world’s electricity.

  • Nuclear energy has caused protests due to the radioactive waste and the danger of a nuclear accident.
  • It’s a clean energy source, which does not release harmful gases into the atmosphere.

COAL It was the main energy source when it powered steam engines. Coal is a fossil fuel formed by the decomposing remains of vegetation in water.

  • Coal is used to produce electricity. It’s used in iron, steel production, and carbon chemical industry.
  • Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel. The deposits are located in China, Russia, and North America.
  • It causes environmental problems.


It was used in the past, but is still very important. They’re formed by the decomposed living organisms at the bottom of the ocean.

  • Oil provides by-products (petrol) and is used to produce electricity. Demand for oil is very high.
  • Natural gas, it’s the most important. The biggest consumers are the industrialized countries and the most populated countries. Problems: environmental damage, which causes pollution and oil spills.


It’s the transformation of raw materials into manufactured goods. It is the most important economic activity. Industrialization promotes economic growth. In the modern industry requires conditions:

  • Machines and energy are used in the manufacturing process.
  • Work is carried out in factories which employ people.
  • Large quantities of goods are produced.

ORIGIN: Families made objects they needed at home (domestic production) or had them made in workshops (craft production). Industrial production began in England in the 18th century. It was based on:

  • New inventions like the steam engine, spinning and weaving machines, and blast furnaces.
  • Production was divided into tasks carried out by workers who were responsible for a process.
  • The manufacture of products had low prices and promoted international trade.

People moved from rural areas to work in factories, and cities grew. The changes were known as the Industrial Revolution. Industrialization spread from England to European countries.

THE SECOND STAGE OF INDUSTRIALIZATION: Production emerged in the USA in the 19th century. It was known as the Fordist model. Production costs were reduced, and products were available to people. This was the beginning of an era of mass consumption.

  • Mature industries: textiles, iron and steel, and ship building.
  • Biotechnology, microelectronics, telecommunications, and robotics are today’s industries. It requires research and development.
  • The destination of products: basic industries, capital goods industries (making products that are used to make other things) and consumer goods industries (for mass consumption).

SPAIN INDUSTRIALIZATION: It began in the 19th century, the industries were textiles, coal, and iron mining. In the 20th century, industry grew due to the capital brought from Cuba and the Philippines. Policies favored the consumption of national products. In 1900, 15% of the working population was employed in industry. This growth was interrupted by the Civil War, but the Spanish economy expanded between 1959-1975. In the 1980s, the industries of iron, steel, and ship-building were closed down. Industrial production reached its peak in the 1990s and the 21st century.


Services consist of activities that satisfy people’s needs. The work of teachers, doctors, or hairdressers. The tertiary sector has expanded in the 20th and 21st centuries. Services provide 70% of wealth and employment in developed countries.

Types of services:

  • Public services are financed by the state from taxes. It supplies basic needs for the population in health or education.
  • Private services are offered by private companies. Consumers pay for them. Services are commercial, educational, health, and telecommunications.

Is the exchange of goods and services between producers and consumers. It’s an important type of service due to the number of workers employed. Trade depends on:

  • Places with good communications (cities) have the most trade.
  • The number of consumers who can purchase goods or services.
  • If people have greater purchasing power, they will consume more.

DOMESTIC TRADE: it takes place in a country’s borders. It distributes domestic products and foreign products. Wholesalers and retailers supply products to consumers:

  • A wholesaler buys large quantities of a product from the producer to sell to retailers.
  • A retailer sells products in small quantities to a customer.

FOREIGN TRADE: it’s the trade with other countries.

  • Imports are the purchases of goods from a foreign country and exports are the sales of goods to a foreign country.
  • The balance of trade is the difference between the value of exports and imports.

WORLD TRADE: it’s regulated by agreements between countries and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It achieves agreements that reduce trade barriers and eliminate unfair practices. Countries form trade blocs to promote trade.

  • Free trade area: trade without taxes. Each country has a trade policy with countries. NAFTA is a trade union between the USA, Mexico, and Canada.
  • Customs union: free trade area with customs policy. SACU and EU are customs unions. There are associations created for the trade of a specific product, like the OPEC.