Critical minerals in medicine

Critical minerals resources: Modern life doesn't grow on trees

Health is wealth and this section is all about medical uses of critical materials.

Have you ever had an X-ray? What about a trip to the dentist? If you have, then you will have relied on equipment that contains elements extracted from rutile, rhodochrosite and sphalerite. These elements are often used to create metal alloys, which can then be used in the stainless steel tools used in many areas of medicine.

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Rutile is an ore of titanium, with a global production of 13.3 million tonnes per year. Titanium is alloyed with other metals to create lightweight, strong materials that are used in medical prosthetics and dental tools. When polished, rutile’s maroon colouration makes it a popular stone in jewellery.

Rhodochrosite is an ore of manganese and is mostly mined in Romania, Argentina and Colorado, USA. Manganese is used to improve strength and resistance in metal alloys and is a key component in the manufacture of stainless steel, which surgical tools are made from.

Sphalerite is the source for 95 per cent of all zinc, which is an essential element for all humans, animals, plants and microorganisms. It is used in X-ray equipment as it can emit light without combustion when activated, making it the perfect tool to view X-rays.

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