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A Complete Guide to Four Main Methods of Mining

There are four distinct types of mining methods, and each method has its own technique, tools, and regulations on how the mining should be done.

Mining is a profession where miners work to extract objects from under the earth’s surface.

Often, these objects are precious metals, such as gold or palladium, or materials that have economic value, such as oil or gas.

Usually, these materials are obtained from ores such as metals, coal, oil shale, gemstones, chalk, rock salt, potash, gravel, and clay.

However, mining does not just mean going underground and digging out the materials. It is not straightforward.

In fact, mining is a very tough job, and depending on many factors, the methods for mining can change.

In general, there are four types of mining methods: Underground Mining, Surface Mining, Placer Mining, and In-Situ Mining.

A short guide to these four mining methods is given below –

1. Underground Mining

We can understand from the name that this mining occurs underground. In this mining process, the miners remove the soil and other rocks from the surface to reach deep underground, where a large deposit of the material sits.

A tunnel is created to reach the deposit, and a shaft is used to access the deposit. The deposit is then extracted. The precious material is brought up while the waste rocks and minerals are left behind.

In underground mining, there are also two types. One is development mining that deals with overburden and obstacles, and the other is production mining that extracts minerals and ores.

There are some major differences in Underground Development Mining Versus Production Mining, but they are equally important.

The Risks Of Underground Mining

Anything can happen underground. Sometimes, the deposit stands as a pillar that holds the underground tunnel.

So if they are extracted without proper tools, there is a chance that the whole tunnel crumbles down on top of the miners.

We also know that the deeper we go underground, the hotter it gets. So the miners need to manually cool the temperature of the tunnel.

The Materials Extracted Through Underground Mining

Since most of the materials that have high economic value are located underground, underground mining is the method that gathers the most materials.

All precious metals such as gold, titanium, silver, and some precious rocks, such as sapphire, ruby, and emerald, can be extracted through underground mining.

Other valuable materials such as oil, gas, and petroleum can also be brought up through this mining method.

The Tools Used For Underground Mining

There are quite a lot of tools that are used in underground mining. Since you need to dig a tunnel, you obviously will need diggers and drills.

To cool the underground tunnel, you need ventilation tools and coolers. You also need vehicles such as loaders to carry the materials outside.

2. Surface Mining

This is the complete opposite of underground mining. In surface mining, miners remove plant life and bedrocks to retrieve materials that are not very deep but located at a shallow depth.

Unlike underground mining, this method is not used to extract precious materials. This is because you can hardly find precious materials on the earth’s surface.

The Different Types Of Surface Mining

There are mainly two types of surface mining. One is open-pit mining, and the other is strip mining.

In open-pit mining, the miners dig out rocks to create an open pit. The materials are then extracted through the pit.

In strip mining, miners remove soil and weathered rocks that serve as a cover. When the topsoil is removed, you get shallow bedded materials.

The Risks Of Surface Mining

There are not many risks to surface mining. But the ones that exist can cause health problems.

Since you need to create a pit in open-pit mining, you need to use explosives. If you are not careful, you will get injured.

With an explosion, there will be a lot of dust particles as well. Without proper protective gear, this huge amount of dust particles can be deadly.

The Tools Used For Surface Mining

You do not need too many tools for surface mining. Shovels, small explosives, protective gears, and drills are the main equipment.

You will also need trucks and loaders to carry the materials from one place to another.

3. Placer Mining

Placer mining is used to collect materials from riverbeds, sandy surfaces, or sediments. Materials slowly accumulate via water and/or wind action and turn in a big deposit known as placer.

Then the placer is collected, rinsed, and sluiced to pull out the desired minerals. This is one of the simpler methods of mining.

Materials Extracted From Placer Mining

The materials collected through placer mining include gold, gemstones, titanium, tin, etc. 50% of the world’s total titanium comes from placer mining.

Risks In Placer Mining

Since this is a very simple mining method, it hardly poses any risks or threats for the miners. However, there still are some risks that lie elsewhere.

In placer mining, you release a lot of sediments, and it impacts surface water for several miles downstream from the placer mine. Thus, the risk is more for the environment than for humans.

4. In-Situ Mining

This is just a more advanced and modified version of underground mining. Instead of extracting the material through digging and drilling, in-situ mining pumps chemicals underground, dissolves the whole deposit, and then pumps out the dissolved ore-chemical solution known as “Pregnant Solution”. The solution is then processed to collect the desired material.

The Materials Extracted

In-situ mining can be done in almost all sorts of underground metallic deposits. It is commonly used for Uranium mining since Uranium is radioactive, and extracting Uranium through traditional methods can be life-threatening.

This method cannot be used to extract oil or rocks because the chemicals damage the quality of the rocks and the oil.

The Benefit Of In-situ Mining

Out of all the mining methods, this one is the most environmentally friendly. It does not create too much vibration, so both the underground soil structure and the surface do not get damaged.

The Risks Of In-situ Mining

Just like placer mining, the risk here is more for the environment. The chemicals used to dissolve the ore can leak into nearby water reserves, damaging the water quality.

Final Thoughts

Mining is a very difficult process, which is why it requires very skilled professionals. Depending on the situation, miners can select what mining methods they should use.

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