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The setting for this question is a classic one, a large group of dwarves go out to settle a far away land, but this land almost completely lacks usable iron resources. Yet our brave dwarves have setup their home on top of another huge deposit of metal.

Supposing they can mine and work with any type of metal, what would this metal deposit best be?

Keep in mind that they have to make tools out of this metal, like weapons, picks, pots & pans etc and armor...

What would be the best metalic mineral deposit to sit upon (except iron) in this situation? and why do you think so? (Only metals that are in the periodic table please, so no mithril.)

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    $\begingroup$ Define ‘best’. Are they looking to just survive, or trade, or wage war, or... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 3 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ As I stated above, to survive and wage war and make things out of it in general. $\endgroup$ – TobyB Mar 3 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ The traditional answer is copper and tin, to make bronze. Tin especially, as it always was relatively rare and relatively expensive. But copper is also pretty expensive with respect to iron. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 3 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ Aluminum. When you are not using it as metal you can make rubies out of it. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby You need a little Chromium. $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Mar 3 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelRichardson: I won't. The question is, in my opinion, silly, because it explicitly requests us to ignore the ease or the difficulty of smelting and working the metal. It also seems to be written by somebody who has never heard of alloys. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 3 at 15:42
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Titanium.

It is light for many applications.

Does not corrode.
Allows development for aviation (Zeppelins, anyone?).
Extreeeemmmmly strong for its weight, may well be the "Real World" Mithril.

Also is biological inert, used in medical applications to fix bones and hip replacements.

Edit: Adding a Steel vs Titanium comparison. Basically the Weight-to-strength ratio is the best of all known metals in our bad boy. Steel vs Titanium

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  • $\begingroup$ Wasn't Titanium weaker than iron?(I mean steel) I mean I know titanium aloys are used in aviation components. $\endgroup$ – TobyB Mar 3 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ Added link with info :-) $\endgroup$ – Gustavo Mar 3 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ And it also cannot be smelted and worked with pre-modern technology. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 3 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ Nice, Nice, but what about something like paladium, would that be viable too? $\endgroup$ – TobyB Mar 3 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP OP explicited that they CAN work the metal. So I abused the "letter of the law" :-P $\endgroup$ – Gustavo Mar 3 at 13:39
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It will depend strongly on the local economy.

If, for example, there is lots of titanium around, then mining titanium will be pretty boring. If mithril is not so rare as it is implied to be in a certain well known fantasy series, then every teenager will have a mithril shirt on his bedroom floor, mixed in with the pile of dirty socks and underwear.

The rare metal that is still useful will be expensive. The rare metal that is still useful, and that has alternative uses will be very good.

Aluminum is pretty good if you can smelt it. The interesting thing is, before people invented electrical methods of refining aluminum, the main source was smelting rubies. There's a chemical process you can turn rubies into metallic aluminum. The Great Pyramid was supposed to have had an aluminum cap made out of rubies. (Though searching for this method has led me to only how to make rubies out of aluminum, not the other way around. Sigh.)

So an enormous mine packed to the top with 100's of tons of low grade rubies would mean they could make aluminum in bulk. Aluminum would be rare enough in a medieval setting that it might well have the allure that mithril had in that fantasy series I mentioned. The higher quality rubies could be polished up and sold as gem stones.

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Titanium? Aluminum? How about feathers? Silk underwear? Taffeta tutus? Bah! What use have dwarves for metal that will blow away if you cough on it? Dwarves want heavy metal! Dwarves want

Uranium.

  1. You could have the dwarves have fission tech and use the uranium for fuel to power their boilers / forges. Fission seems like a dwarf sort of thing to me.

  2. Uranium carbide tools. Carbides of heavy metals are very hard and refractory ceramics. They are lighter and stronger than the native metal, and require only carbon which the dwarves will have, being made of it. Tungsten carbide is crazy hard and is used for drill bits etc. You could have the dwarves make tools from uranium carbides. Carbides might be more brittle than steel and so these dwarves would make weapons intended to slice, not hack. No axes; they would have cutting daggers made of the carbide and maces with heavy heads of uranium metal.

  3. Uranium dyes. Uranium compounds make some excellent colors including a bright orange-red which would be the trademark color of these dwarves.

  4. Uranium based cancer therapeutics. These dwarves would be cancer prone due to using uranium so much. They could have cancer treatments based on uranium. Heavy metals like platinum and arsenic are in use now as cancer treatments, and other isotopes could be used for a fantasy, or a near future science fiction.

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    $\begingroup$ 'Your sword glows because it's magical? My hammer glows because it's a sub-critical lump of uranium. It's a useless hammer, but it does give all my enemies cancer, so there's that!!' $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 3 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ Interestingly, Uranium was used in cannons when molybdenum was in short supply. I seem to remember that, for a while during the Manhattan project, it was referred to as "gunmetal." But I can't find a reference. You must be incredibly careful smelting Uranium, since it REALLY likes to oxidize. Worse than aluminum in this regard. $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Mar 3 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ That was matelal!, but you can still do better! $\endgroup$ – TobyB Mar 4 at 15:20

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