Sapphire, graphite, and aluminum are minerals. This means that they form naturally on the earth and have a specific composition and structure. All of these minerals are found at my home and are used often.
Aluminum (or aluminium, if you are a Brit) is an element, a metal, and a mineral. It is actually the most common metal in Earth's crust. The element itself is formed in supernovae, but the mineral aluminum is most often found in bauxite (not a mineral itself, but a combination of minerals, or a rock). Bauxite is formed when the silica in aluminum-containing rocks is washed away. Deposits of bauxite are found as flat layers close to the earth's surface and can extend for miles. It is typically mined by bulldozers digging to the bauxite layer and explosives that bring the ore to the surface. The bauxite layers are then taken to a processing plant. Through a series of chemical reactions, the aluminum is separated into aluminum oxide, a fine white powder also called alumina. Alumina is then smelted into aluminum, which is very versatile and can be formed into sheets (pictured above), rods, and thin wires. Other uses for aluminum are transportation (cars, airplanes, trucks, and railroad cars) and packing (cans).