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TITLE: Mining a Car

These are the mining products used to build a 3,000 lb car.






240 lb.

This strong, lightweight metal is a major component of some car bodies.

Frame and body (on cars with aluminum bodies)
Electrical wiring
Metallic flake paint
Air conditioner condenser and pipes
Engine parts (pistons, radiator, cylinder head)
Magnets (for speedometers, tachometers, air bags)


15 lb.

Valued because it is corrosion-resistant, chromium is an important component of stainless steel. Major ore mineral: chromite

Stainless steel in exhaust system
Chrome-plated trim and bumpers


2,813 lb.

Coal is used as a source of energy in extracting metals from ores and in assembling an automobile; coking coal is used in iron and steel production.

Production of metals from ores (amount required: 2,383 lb.)
Energy to assemble automobile (amount required: 430 lb.)


42 lb.

This metal is used in wiring and is a component of brass.

Electrical wiring
Brass in steel-belted tires
Brass in radiator


2,124 lb.

Iron is the major component of steel, used to make the bodies and frames of most cars. Major iron ore minerals: hematite, magnetite, goethite

Fuel tank
Steel in frame, roof, side panels, hood (on cars with steel bodies)
Engine block
Drive sprockets
Parking brake, gears and cables


24 lb.

The major use of lead is in car batteries, but it is also used for tire weights and pendulums in self-tightening seat belts. Major lead ores: galena, anglesite, cerussite.

Seat belt weight pendulums
Tire balance weights


4.5 lb.

This lightweight metal is used in specialty alloys. Major ore minerals: magnesite, dolomite; also derived from seawater/brines

Front seat structures
Transmission housing
Valve covers
Alloys for engine block


17 lb.

This metal is an important ingredient in steel. Major manganese ore minerals: braunite, manganite, pyrolusite, hausmannite

Fuel Tank
Springs and axles
Engine parts
Valve covers
Exhaust manifold
Connecting rods


9 lb.

Nickel is used in stainless steel and in specialty magnets in gauges and switches. Major nickel ore minerals: pentlandite, ni-pyrrhotite

Magnets (for speedometer, tachometer, air bags, automatic braking system, voltmeter, thermostats)
Stainless steel for exhaust system


130 lb.

Used to make glass, quartz is also a source of silicon for electronic components. All steel contains some silicon. Major ore mineral: quartz (sand and rock crystal)

Clock and other time-keeping devices
Silicon in computer chips
Fiberglass trim and molding
Spark plugs
Lamp glass
Auto glass
Instrument panel


22 lb.

This metal is a galvanizing agent used to prevent rust. It is also a major component of brass.

Fuel tank
Springs and axles
Brass in steel-belted radial tires
Brass in radiator
Engine parts
Valve covers
Connecting rods
Exhaust manifold
Die castings

Other Products

Numerous other mineral products are used to build a car. Many are present only in small amounts but are critical for the car’s safe operation.

Plastics: 250lb
Uses: upholstery, dashboard, steering, wheel, bumpers, console, and more

Rubber: 140 lb
Uses: tires, bumpers, hoses, seals, gaskets, wipers, and more

Sulfur: 1-2 lb
Use: rubber in tires

Vanadium: 1-3 lb
Use: component in high-strength steel

Antimony: 1 lb
Use: hardener in lead batteries

Asbestos: 4 lb
Uses: brake and clutch pads

Gold: less than 0.1 troy oz
Uses: electrical contacts for automatic braking system, airbags, and computer circuit boards

Platinum: less than 0.1 troy oz
Uses: catalytic converter, spark plugs

Other Mineral Products (all less than 1 lb)
Barium, Cadmium, Cobalt, Gallium, Graphite, Halite, Silver, Strontium, Tin, Titanium, Tungsten, Wollastonite, Zirconium

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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Mineral Sciences website Credits