Is Concrete a Mineral? (And What About Cement?)

No, concrete is not a mineral, because it is only formed with the assistance of humans, and does not have a consistent chemical composition.

In this article below, we’ll explain what this means.

First, How Does One Determine If Something (Like Concrete) is a Mineral?

The great thing about science is that it develops some pretty decent rules/guidelines that can be applied. In the determination of whether or not a substance is a mineral, there are five questions.

To be a mineral, the answer to each question must be yes.

One: Does the material form on its own without the assistance of humans?

Two: Is the material a solid?

Three: Is the material inorganic?

Four: Does the material have a consistent chemical composition?

Five: Are the atoms in the material arranged in a consistently orderly manner?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the material is not a mineral.

What is Concrete and How is it Formed?

Concrete is a material made up of fine and coarse aggregate bonded together with a kind of paste that hardens over time.

The formula to make “concrete” varies. You can use any number of materials for the “fine” components (like sand), and any number of materials for the “coarse” components (like gravel), and then also for the “glue” that holds them all together.

The concrete is mixed and then poured, and while there are extensive efforts to make the material consistent in composition throughout the project, this mixing/making does not go down to the molecular level.

As a result, concrete in any given place is going to be different.

Is Concrete a Mineral? (Answer)

Now that we know more about concrete, it is pretty easy to answer the five above questions. And remember, it only takes one “no” to disqualify a material.

First, concrete fails to pass the mineral test on the initial question, which has to do with the material forming without the assistance of humans. But its very definition, concrete is something that we humans affirmatively make with the purpose of using it as a building block for other projects.

Some might argue that concrete could be created in nature without human interaction under the right circumstances.

Since subsequent questions also confirm our conclusion, we’ll move on.

Second, concrete fails to pass the mineral test because it does not have a consistent chemical composition. For example, if you were to take a sample of the concrete poured and hardened in a parking lot in New Jersey, you’d expect it to match the chemical composition of a sample of concrete taken from a parking lot in Los Angeles.

Since it is extremely unlikely that these two samples would match given the number of ways concrete is mixed and the ingredients used, concrete fails this question.

Concrete is better thought of as a mixture.

To make concrete, you have to put together the right balance of ingredients: fine, coarse, and a glue. Once those materials are mixed and the concrete is formed, it is still possible to separate those materials from each other.

While the sand and the gravel are glued together by the cement paste, they do not become chemically bonded to each other. You don’t have to go to the molecular level to separate them.

Even as concrete, they maintain their separate characteristics.

What is the Difference Between Concrete and Cement?

People often use the term concrete interchangeably with cement. But cement is often an ingredient in concrete.

Concrete is a mixture of gravel, sand, and the glue/paste.

Cement is the glue/paste that holds the sand and the gravel together. It is made from several kinds of ground up materials (limestone, clay, crushed rock, iron ore). These materials are heated up really hot, then ground up again.

Just add water.

Is Cement a Mineral?

No, cement is not a mineral.

Cement fails most of the mineral question, with the exception of the requirement that it be inorganic.

Concrete is usually a bunch of materials ground up together, mixed with water, and then allowed to harden.

The formula for cement varies across the board, and is as unlikely as concrete to be exactly the same anywhere in the world.

In general, cement is also man-made like concrete, which disqualifies it as a mineral.

That being said, one could argue that cement could be considered a mineral if only one substance was being used to make it, such as the mineral calcite.

But even then, we think of this as a pretty poor argument, because water must still be added to the powdered mix to make the “glue/paste.”

Interested in learning about other common substances, and whether they’d be considered a mineral? Check out our mineral articles about: sand, dirt, hydrogen, seawater, sugar, glass, and gravel.