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Mineral Monday: Lead

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Stretching back to the very dawn of modern civilization, Lead- a highly malleable member of the metal elements- is the focus of this week’s ‘Mineral Monday’.

Thanks to its widespread distribution, ease of extraction and utility Lead has been commonly used for thousands of years. From the Ancient Egyptians through to the Romans Lead found a multiplicity of uses; including currency, construction, weapons and even rudimentary plumbing.

Where is it produced / mined?

Lead is produced across the world with total estimated annual production now being in the region of 8 million tonnes. The biggest producers include Australia, China and the United States who account for over half of global Lead output.

Did you know?

• At current use rates, the supply of Lead is estimated to run out in 42 years (although analysts suggest that Lead could in fact run out within 18 years based on an extrapolation of 2% growth per year).
• Lead has a long history in alchemy, since many alchemists believed Lead could be turned into gold.
• The majority of Lead is produced for use by the automotive industry, primarily for use in car batteries.
• Lead’s poisonous properties were discovered by early civilizations. Lead poisoning was recognised and documented by the ancients Romans, Greeks and Chinese.
• The ancient Egyptians used lead based eye makeup as a means of protecting their eyes from infections (conjunctivitis etc) that they would have contracted from contaminated Nile water.

Thank you Lead for thousands of years of help in construction our societies and shaping the world around us!

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