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Busting some rocky myths

We’ve done some digging to bust a few pervasive myths about rocks, minerals and mining

Last updated: 6 November 2023


As one of the world’s biggest mining companies, rocks are a huge part of our day-to-day operations.

We find them, study them, uncover them, and find new and better ways to turn them into a range of products that the world needs.

But we’ve noticed that several myths about rocks seem to stick around – so we spoke to some experts on our team to set the record straight.

Myth #1: Geology isn’t real science

When you think of science, you’re likely picturing test tubes, lab coats and experiments. But science often looks quite different.

Between scientific disciplines there’s often good-natured banter about what constitutes “real” science – and fields like geology often get accused of being “imposters”.

But Ian, our Head of Orebody Knowledge, explains exactly why geology is definitely a science.


“Geologists study the materials processes and history of the earth, investigating how rocks were formed and what has happened to them since,” Ian says.

“This tells us a lot about how the physical earth and atmosphere behaved in the past and gives us insights into how it may change in the future.

“Importantly, geology allows us to find important natural concentrations of minerals that have proven to be useful for building everything, from your car to your mobile phone, as well as the minerals and metals required to decarbonise the earth.”

Myth #2: The rocks we live on don't move

From a young age, we learn some basic facts about the world around us that seem unshakeable. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and rocks are solid. After all, “solid as a rock” is a common saying for a reason – right?

Well, as it happens, none of those “facts” are actually true – and Ian has some context that can give us a sturdier understanding of rocks.

“The rocks we live on are floating on molten and plastic-like layers in the earth, with currents in the molten earth moving large plates of the crust or surface of the earth around,” Ian says.

Rocky shore

“In fact, Australia is moving north at about 7 cm per year, about twice as fast as your fingernails grow. And if you live in Australia, your house is about 1.5m further north than it was 20 years ago.

“This movement requires our topographic maps and associated GPS coordinates to be periodically updated. Sometimes we feel the rocks move dramatically and this is called an earthquake.”

Myth #3: All rocks are composed of minerals

Minerals are the world’s building blocks.

They form the basis of our geology, provide essential nutrients for plant and animal life, and are integral to countless industrial and technological processes.

And while many of us might associate them more as something humans need to stay healthy – like calcium, magnesium and potassium – we know that they come from the ground.

QIT product

But not all rocks are as mineral-packed as you'd think. So to clear things up, Ian breaks down the misconception that every rock is essentially a mineral mosaic.

“Not all rocks are composed of minerals,” Ian says.

“In simple terms, minerals are naturally occurring inorganic solids with a definite chemical composition and crystalline structure.

“Coal, for example, is a rock made up of ancient vegetation (hence we can burn it for energy), but strictly speaking, this material is not a mineral.”

Myth #4: Minerals aren’t critical

We know minerals are everywhere – which might make you think they’re pretty common, and therefore not in short supply.

But as the world races to curb the effects of climate change, the kind of materials in high demand is changing. And from electric vehicle batteries to solar panels, minerals are the backbone of the energy transition.

Diavik product

Sinead Kaufman, our Chief Executive of Minerals, explains why minerals are more critical than ever.

“Clean-energy technologies often require more critical minerals than their traditional counterparts,” Sinead says.

“An electric car, for example, uses around five times more minerals than a combustion engine, and a wind farm on land uses around eight times more minerals than a conventional gas-fired power plant with the same capacity.

“So demand for critical minerals will grow rapidly – in 2020, the World Bank estimated that minerals such as graphite, lithium and cobalt could increase production by nearly 500% by 2050.”

Myth #5: Land is useless after mining is done

People often think mining's just the actual extraction and processing of materials.

But a huge part of our operations involves what happens after mining ends.

Santiago, our Manager for Closure Research and Development, explains how rehabilitating and rejuvenating the lands we operate on creates spaces that create value for communities and the environment long after a mine closes.

“There’s this perception that we just pack up and call it a day… far from it,” Santiago says.

“We make sure we close all our sites down responsibly and sustainably, because we believe there’s an opportunity for a fresh start.

“Through our operations we are connected to a varied and vast landholding and with that comes a great responsibility and a great opportunity to make sure the future of these areas is carefully considered.

“Back in 2021, we teamed up with RESOLVE to launch Regeneration Enterprises. It's all about a fresh approach to mining where we work with the community to revive old mine sites by re-mining left-over materials to ultimately restore land.

“And this is just one way we’re using science to remediate sites more sustainably. We’ve joined a project to learn how microbes could help us, and we’ve even managed to re-plant ecosystems without topsoil.

“There’s a lot riding on getting this right but we’re confident we can improve outcomes for mines – potentially around the world.”

Mining Myth: Land is useless after mining

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