Rock Types

Rocks: A collection of one or more minerals bound together by chemical bonds that make up the rock.
The most prevalent minerals in rocks are quartz and feldspar. Petrology is the name given to the study of rocks in science. Igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks are the three main types of rocks according to the mode of creation.

  • Igneous rocks are made of lava and magma.
  • Sedimentary rocks are the product of the deposition of rock fragments.
  • Metamorphic rocks are created from pre-existing rocks that are recrystallizing.
Types of Rocks

Igneous Rock or Primary Rock

  • The solidification of magma formed the first rocks on earth.
  • Rocks formed out of the solidification of magma (molten rock below the surface) and lava (molten rock above the surface) is known as igneous or primary rocks.
  • Having their origin under conditions of high temperatures the igneous rocks are unfossiliferous.
  • Granite, gabbro, and basalt are some examples of igneous rocks.
  • There are three types of igneous rocks based on place and time taken in cooling of the molten matter, plutonic rocks, volcanic rocks, and intermediate rocks.
  • There are two types of rocks based on the presence of acid-forming radicals, silicon, acidic rocks, and basic rocks.

Intrusive igneous rocks (Plutonic rocks)

  • If magma cools slowly at great depths, mineral grains formed in the rocks may be very large.
  • Such rocks are called intrusive rocks or plutonic rocks (e.g. Granite).
  • These rocks appear on the surface only after being uplifted and denuded.

Extrusive igneous rock (Lava or Volcanic rocks)

  • Sudden cooling of magma just below the surface or lava above the surface results in small and smooth grains in rocks as rapid cooling prevents crystallisation, as a result, such rocks are fine-grained.
  • Such rocks are called extrusive rocks or volcanic rocks (e.g. Basalt).
  • The Deccan traps in the Indian peninsular region are of basaltic origin.
  • Basic rocks contain a greater proportion of basic oxides, e.g. of iron, aluminum, or magnesium, and are thus denser and darker in color.

Hypabyssal or Dyke Rocks or Intermediate rocks

  • These rocks occupy an intermediate position between the deep-seated plutonic bodies and the surface lava flows.
  • Dyke rocks are semi-crystalline in structure.
Hypabyssal or Dyke Rocks or Intermediate rocks

Acidic Rock

  • Acidic rocks are characterized by the high content of silica (quartz and feldspar) — up to 80 percent.
  • The rest is divided among aluminum, alkalis, magnesium, iron oxide, lime, etc.
  • These rocks have a lesser content of heavier minerals like iron and magnesium. Hence, they are less dense and lighter in color than basic rocks.
  • These rocks constitute the sial portion of the crust.
  • Due to the excess of silicon, acidic magma cools fast, and it does not flow and spread far away.
  • High mountains are formed of this type of rock.
  • Add rocks are hard, compact, massive, and resistant to weathering.
  • Granite, quartz, and feldspar are typical examples.

Basic Rock

  • These rocks are poor in silica (about 40 percent); magnesia content is up to 40 percent, and the remaining is spread over iron oxide, lime, aluminum, alkalis, potassium, etc.
  • Due to low silica content, the parent material of such rocks cools slowly and thus, flows and spreads far away. This flow and cooling give rise to plateaus.
  • The presence of heavy elements imparts to these rocks a dark color. Not being very hard, these rocks are weathered relatively easily.
  • Basaltgabbro, and dolerite are typical examples.

Economic Significance of Igneous Rocks

  • Since magma is the chief source of metal ores, many of them are associated with igneous rocks.
  • The minerals of great economic value found in igneous rocks are magnetic iron, nickel, copper, lead, zinc, chromite, manganese, gold, diamond, and platinum.
  • Amygdales are almond-shaped bubbles formed in basalt due to the escape of gases and are filled with minerals.
  • The old rocks of the great Indian peninsula are rich in these crystallised minerals or metals.
  • Many igneous rocks like granite are used as building materials as they come in beautiful shades.

Sedimentary Rock or Detrital Rock

  • Sedimentary rocks are formed by lithification ― consolidation, and compaction of sediments.
  • Hence, they are layered or stratified of varying thicknesses. Examples: sandstone, shale, etc.
  • Sediments are a result of denudation (weathering and erosion) of all types of rocks.
  • These types of rocks cover 75 percent of the earth’s crust but volumetrically occupy only 5 percent (because they are available only in the upper part of the crust).
  • Ice-deposited sedimentary rocks are called till or tillite. Wind-deposited sediments are called loess.

Depending upon the mode of formation, sedimentary rocks are classified into:

  1. mechanically formed — sandstone, conglomerate, limestone, shale, loess.
  2. organically formed — geyserite, chalk, limestone, coal.
  3. chemically formed — limestone, halite, potash.

Mechanically Formed Sedimentary Rocks

  • They are formed by mechanical agents like running water, wind, ocean currents, ice, etc.
  • Arenaceous sedimentary rocks have more sand and bigger-sized particles and are hard and porous. They form the best reservoirs for liquids like groundwater and petroleum. E.g. sandstone.
  • Argillaceous rocks have more clay and are fine-grained, softer, and mostly impermeable (mostly non-porous or have very tiny pores). E.g. claystone and shales are predominantly argillaceous.

Chemically Formed Sedimentary Rocks

  • Water containing minerals evaporates at the mouth of springs or salt lakes and gives rise to Stalactites and stalagmites (deposits of lime left over by the lime-mixed water as it evaporates in the underground caves).
Chemically Formed Sedimentary Rocks

Organically Formed Sedimentary Rocks

  • The remains of plants and animals are buried under sediments, and due to heat and pressure from overlying layers, their composition changes. Coal and limestone are well-known examples.
  • Depending on the predominance of calcium content or carbon content, sedimentary rocks may be calcareous (limestone, chalk, dolomite) or carbonaceous (coal).

Characteristics of Sedimentary Rock

  • They are stratified ― consist of many layers or strata.
  • They hold the most informative geological records due to the marks left behind by various geophysical (weather patterns, wind, and water flow) and biological activities (fossils).
  • They are fossiliferous ― have fossils of plants and animals.
  • These rocks are generally porous and allow water to percolate through them.

The spread of Sedimentary Rocks in India

  • Alluvial deposits in the Indo-Gangetic plain and coastal plains are of sedimentary accumulation. These deposits contain loam and clay.
  • Different varieties of sandstone are spread over Madhya Pradesh, eastern Rajasthan, parts of the Himalayas, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Orissa.
  • The great Vindhyan highland in central India consists of sandstones, shales, and limestones.
  • Coal deposits occur in the river basins of the Damodar, Mahanadi, and Godavari in the Gondwana sedimentary deposits.

Economic Significance of Sedimentary Rock

  • Sedimentary rocks are not as rich in minerals of economic value as igneous rocks.
  • But important minerals such as hematite iron ore, phosphates, building stones, coals, petroleum, and material used in the cement industry are found.
  • The decay of tiny marine organisms yields petroleum. Petroleum occurs in suitable structures only.
  • Important minerals like bauxite, manganese, and tin, are derived from other rocks but are found in gravels and sands carried by water.
  • Sedimentary rocks also yield some of the richest soils.

Metamorphic Rock

  • The word metamorphic means ‘change of form’.
  • Metamorphism is a process by which recrystallisation and reorganisation of minerals occur within a rock. This occurs due to pressure, volume, and temperature changes.
  • When rocks are forced down to lower levels by tectonic processes or when molten magma rising through the crust comes in contact with the crustal rocks, metamorphosis occurs.
  • In the process of metamorphism in some rocks grains or minerals get arranged in layers or lines. Such an arrangement is called foliation or lineation.
  • Sometimes minerals or materials of different groups are arranged into alternating thin to thick layers. Such a structure is called banding.
  • Gneissoid, slate, schist, marble, quartzite, etc. are some examples of metamorphic rocks.

Causes of Metamorphism

  • Orogenic (Mountain Building) Movements: Such movements often take place with an interplay of folding, warping, and high temperatures. These processes give existing rocks a new appearance.
  • Lava Inflow: The molten magmatic material inside the earth’s crust brings the surrounding rocks under the influence of intense temperature pressure and causes changes in them.
  • Geodynamic Forces: The omnipresent geodynamic forces such as plate tectonics also play an important role in metamorphism.

On the basis of the agency of metamorphism, metamorphic rocks can be of two types

Thermal Metamorphism

  • The change of form or re-crystallisation of minerals of sedimentary and igneous rocks under the influence of high temperatures is known as thermal metamorphism.
  • A magmatic intrusion causing thermal metamorphism is responsible for the peak of Mount Everest consisting of metamorphosed limestone.
  • As a result of thermal metamorphism, sandstone changes into quartzite and limestone into marble.

Dynamic Metamorphism

  • This refers to the formation of metamorphic rocks under high pressure.
  • Sometimes high pressure is accompanied by high temperatures and the action of chemically charged water.
  • The combination of directed pressure and heat is very powerful in producing metamorphism because it leads to more or less complete recrystallization of rocks and the production of new structures. This is known as dynamo thermal metamorphism.
  • Under high pressure, granite is converted into gneiss; clay and shale are transformed into schist.

Some examples of Metamorphosis

Igneous or Sedimentary rockInfluenceMetamorphosed rock
Clay, ShalePressureSchist
Clay, ShaleHeatSlate ==> Phyllite
CoalHeatAnthracite ==> Graphite

Metamorphic Rock in India

  • The gneisses and schists are commonly found in the Himalayas, Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
  • Quartzite is a hard rock found over Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and areas surrounding Delhi.
  • Marble occurs near Alwar, Ajmer, Jaipur, and Jodhpur in Rajasthan and parts of Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Slate, which is used as a roofing material and for writing in schools, is found over Rewari (Haryana), Kangra (Himachal Pradesh), and parts of Bihar.
  • Graphite is found in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

Rock cycle

  • The rock cycle is a continuous process through which old rocks are transformed into new ones.
  • Igneous rocks are primary rocks, and other rocks form from these rocks.
  • Igneous rocks can be changed into sedimentary or metamorphic rocks.
  • The fragments derived out of igneous and metamorphic rocks form sedimentary rocks.
  • Sedimentary and igneous rocks themselves can turn into metamorphic rocks.
  • The crustal rocks (igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary) may be carried down into the mantle (interior of the earth) through the subduction process and the same meltdown and turn into molten magma, the source for igneous rocks
Rock cycle

Some Rock-Forming Minerals

  • Feldspar: Half the crust is composed of feldspar. It has a light color, and its main constituents are silicon, oxygen, sodium, potassium, calcium, and aluminum. It is used for ceramics and glass making.
  • Quartz: It has two elements, silicon, and oxygen. It has a hexagonal crystalline structure. It is uncleaved, white, or colorless. It cracks like glass and is present in sand and granite. It is used in the manufacture of radio and radar.
  • Bauxite: A hydrous oxide of aluminum, it is the ore of aluminum. It is non-crystalline and occurs in small pellets.
  • Cinnabar (mercury sulphide): Mercury is derived from it. It has a brownish color.
  • Dolomite: A double carbonate of calcium and magnesium. It is used in the cement and iron and steel industries. It is white.
  • Gypsum: It is hydrous calcium sulphate and is used in cement, fertiliser, and chemical industries.
  • Haematite: It is a red ore of iron.
  • Magnetite: It is the black ore (or iron oxide) of iron.
  • Amphibole: It forms about 7 percent of the earth’s crust and consists mainly of aluminum, calcium, silica, iron, magnesium, etc. It is used in the asbestos industry.
  • Mica: It consists of potassium, aluminum, magnesium, iron, silica, etc., and forms 4 % of the earth’s crust. It is generally found in igneous and metamorphic rocks and is mainly used in electrical instruments.
  • Olivine: The main elements of olivine are magnesium, iron, and silica. It is normally a greenish crystal.
  • Pyroxene: It consists of calcium, aluminum, magnesium, iron, and silica. It is green or black in color.
  • Other minerals like chlorite, calcite, magnetite, hematite, bauxite, barite, etc., are also present in rocks.


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