Editorial Feature

Native Metal - Mining Fundamentals

Native metal is the uncombined form of metal that occurs in nature. It is the pure, metallic form that does not occur in combination with other elements. Native metals are either found as native deposits singly or as alloys.

Metals that are found in their native form are antimony, arsenic, bismuth, cobalt, indium, iron, tantalum, tin, tungsten, and zinc.

Apart from these there are two groups of metals. These are, namely, the gold and the platinum groups.

The gold group consists of gold, copper, lead, aluminum, mercury, and silver.

The platinum group is made up of platinum, iridium, osmium, palladium, ruthenium, and rhodium.

Brass, bronze, gold-mercury amalgam, and silver-mercury are the alloys that are found in the native state.

Native metals, though a small group, exhibit some rare and useful properties, hence they are of economic importance. Among these native metals, gold, platinum, silver, and copper occur in relatively larger amounts.

Other metals occur in isolated pockets as the reduction product of an ore.

Occurrence and Characteristics of Native Metals

Silver - Silver is characterized by its silver or black, tarnished appearance. It is generally found in hydrothermal veins. Some of the common uses of silver are in photography and jewelry making

Gold – This metal is distinguished by its gold or yellow color. Like silver, gold is also found in hydrothermal veins, and as placers. The majority of gold-mining is done in South Africa. Gold is chiefly used in making jewelry

Copper – Copper is characterized by its copper color, with a green tarnish, and occurs in porphyry deposits. It is used for wiring and in the making of alloys and jewels

Platinum – Platinum appears as a silver-gray deposit, found in ultramafic portions of stratiform complexes. It is distributed mainly in South Africa. It is used as a catalyst, and for making jewels


  • Hydrothermal Systems, Native Metals and California’s Gold – University of Southern California
  • Lecture 18: Native Metals – Western Michigan University

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