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In the old game where one had to guess some object by asking no more than 20 questions, the first was often “animal, vegetable, or mineral?” Minerals have made America the richest nation on earth, and it is minerals that will keep it ahead of the rest of the world in the 21st century.

Obviously minerals are not our only natural resource: There are our more than 300 million Americans with skills and talents in hundreds of thousands of areas. Therefore it could be said that people are perhaps our greatest resource. Animals—both in the wild and domestic—are resources for food, clothing, even fertilizer. Then there are our vegetable resources, not only agricultural products produced on farms, but also millions of acres of timber, grasslands and shoreline plants that are nurseries for fish and other seafood. What would our world be like without songbirds or game birds, or just plain old chickens? Each is a resource for something.

The Midwest and Mines

The first mine I ever entered as a child was a zinc mine in Missouri. It was “played out” but was still used as a tourist attraction for those brave enough to ride down a few hundred feet into the ground in what was basically a big tin can on a rope. Since then, I have been fascinated with mining, and have visited some of the largest ones in the country. My home town of Cleveland is built over a salt mine. Salt wells lined the Lake Erie shoreline east of Cleveland. South and west of Cleveland were sandstone quarries, some of the deepest in the world. West of that part of Ohio the sandstone gave way to limestone, gypsum and dolomite quarries. On one venture, I watched a long boat (ships on the Great Lakes are called boats) being loaded with gypsum and limestone. The next day, I found the same boat cruising up the Cuyahoga River to a steel mill.

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