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Mining: A Brief Overview

mining-imageThe term ‘mining’ means extraction. The process of mining entails the extraction of valuable resources from the earth by using various methods and techniques.

Discovery of Mining Techniques – A Revolutionary Development

The discovery of the methods and techniques to extract the treasures that lie beneath the surface of the earth and the development of various machines to carry out the processes was a revolutionary development in the history of mankind.

It not only makes our daily lives a lot easier by allowing us to utilize the vast reserves of oil, coal and gas for daily purposes, but it also led to the invention of various instruments, gadgets and items of everyday use which are made with the help of various metals, like copper, iron, aluminum etc. In addition to these, we were also able get our hands on some of the most precious metals and stones just because of the development of various mining techniques and methods. Had geologists not invented these techniques, we would not have been able to use gold, silver, diamond, emerald and other precious stones to make beautiful ornaments to adorn ourselves with.

Countries prospered and civilizations developed as they started extracting the natural wealth lying beneath the surface of the earth and used it to further their economic activities and industrial growth.

bucket_wheel_excavator-for-mining
Bucket Wheel Excavator for Surface Mining

Types of Mining

The process of mining can be broadly divided into 2 categories:

  1. Surface Mining
  2. Underground Mining

These types are further divided into various sub-categories.

Surface Mining

Surface mining is a broad category that is comprised of various methods used by geologists to extract the mineral deposits, metals and ores lying near the surface of the earth. Different kinds of surface mining are:

  • Open pit or Opencast mining
  • Strip mining
  • Quarrying

The most common element extracted through surface mining is ‘coal’.

Underground Mining

Underground mining includes techniques and methods used to extract metals, ores and minerals that lie deep within the earth and cannot be taken out with surface mining techniques. In these types of mining techniques, an entrance point is made from the earth’s surface, which is in the form of a mine shaft, an adit or a tunnel. Major types of underground mining are:

  • Longwall mining
  • Room and pillar mining
  • Shaft mining
  • Block caving
  • Cut and fill stoping
  • Borehole mining

Negative Effects of Mining

In addition to the numerous benefits provided to human beings due to the extraction of valuable natural resources, the processes used to carry out mining produces have some negative effects as well, particularly on the environment. Some of the major negative impacts are as follows:

  • Mining causes the emission of various gases, dust and trace elements that lead to the contamination of air and surface water.
  • The quality of the soil and its fertility is compromised because of mining. Also, it makes the soil toxic.
  • It causes deforestation, destruction of landscapes and wildlife habitats.
  • The water table gets lowered due to mining which in turn affects the flow of groundwater.

Knowing What’s Underneath the Earth’s Surface

Breakaway view of the earth's inner cores
Breakaway view of the earth’s inner cores

Geology is an interesting subject as it involves studying different features of the earth including the oceans, mountains, rocks, earthquakes, and volcanoes.

Basically, a geologist studies all solid and liquid matter that forms the earth in addition to the history and processes that have fashioned it. A basic and important part of geology is the earth’s interior. This part of geology is what we’re going to discuss here.

Earth’s Interior

Just like the interior of your car, the earth’s interior is made up of a variety of elements and a number of layers are present in the earth’s interior. The earth’s crust, mantle, and the core are its major layers. The mantle is further divided into the upper and lower mantle while a liquid outer core and a solid inner core constitute the earth’s core.

The earth’s crust

The first layer of the earth consisting of about 16 kilometers of rock as well as unattached materials is known as the crust. Compared to its thickness under the oceans, the crust’s thickness underneath the continents is almost three times more.

The Earth’s Mantle

earth mantle cutaway viewMantle is the layer beneath the crust and accounts for a large majority of the Earth’s volume. Movements, know as convection in geology circles, is responsible for earthquakes and volcanic activity.  Almost 1,800 miles deep, the mantle consists of substances that are rocky, solid and thick. Of the earth’s total weight and mass, 85 percent is made up of this substance. Very hard, rigid rocks make up the mantle’s first few miles. Super heated solid rock makes up the next 100 or so. Solid and sturdy rock materials make up the next hundred miles of the earth’s mantle.

The Earth’s Core

Two layers that are mostly iron make up the earth’s core. Iron is estimated to make up about 90% of the earth’s core with oxygen, sulfur, or nickel combining to form the remaining 10 %. The earth’s core consists of mostly iron and nickel. Solid, the earth’s inner core measures about 1500 miles in diameter.

The earth’s outer core also consists of mostly nickel and iron. The earth’s inner and outer cores combine to become as big as the planet Mars. Superheated liquid molten lava is what most people believe earth’s outer core is made of. A solid ball comprising mainly of nickel and iron is believed to make up the earth’s inner core.

There you have it—the earth’s interior and its components. The next time you start digging holes in your garden, you will know exactly what lies underneath it.

Things to Consider Before Starting to Collect Minerals

Collecting minerals is a very interesting hobby with collectors passionate about saving minerals from all over the world. In fact, they have taken mineral collecting to a whole new level. But, if you are a beginner and new to this fascinating specialty, you should consider a few things before treading on this path. Let’s explore them below.

Know Your Interest

If you are also a passionate mineral hunter, then you must first know about your interest in detail. Out of the many types of minerals, you may feel like collecting the multi-colored tourmaline and the beautiful red rhodochrosite. On the other hand, your friend may like to get the one they have seen plentiful in their childhood, that is the beautiful little quartz.

Whatever your motivation is, it is always good to know of your interest in detail before starting mineral collection. Interest will be the ultimate element which will make you focus and thus, you must know what types of minerals interest you.

Make a Budget

When you get to know of your interest, you will get an idea and realize how much budget you will require to pursue it. If you are fond of collecting rhodium (one of the most expensive minerals in the world), then need to know that you must have a handsome budget to purchase it. While the best quality minerals can eat up your budget very quickly, you must ensure that you purchase a few that are less costly.

Buy a Book

A novice mineral collector must buy a book. Veteran mineral collectors suggest buying a book so that they are able to know the ins and outs of each mineral. Furthermore, books help develop your interest even more. Also, with good reference books, new mineral collectors will be able to get all the answers to their queries. Veteran mineral collectors suggest investing in publications like Rocks and Minerals, Rocks and Gems and the book titled Mineralogical Record.

Understand its Uniqueness

While there are many people who love collecting other items, mineral collectors must understand and realize the importance of collecting fine minerals that are natural instead of being man-made. As they are formed naturally, they are more valuable. The value of mineral may vary with beauty, rarity, quality, origin, form, shape and size but they are truly the richest resources among all collectibles.   

Four Tips for Mineral Collectors | A Beginner’s Guide

mineral collectionAre you a mineral collector? If you are, then you have come to the right place. Veteran mineral collectors learn lessons in their quest to collect minerals from around the world. Here are some tips that can help you in collecting minerals:

Tip # 1: Label the Minerals

Labels helps keep your mineral collection organized. If you do not keep your minerals labelled, then how will you ascertain that a rare tourmaline is from Connecticut and the ordinary green tourmaline is from Brazil? Labeling them with information such as their source of origination will keep you informed as we all tend to forget things. Also, if you have a large number of minerals, then it is most likely that you will forget where you bought them from. By giving them identification, a label helps mineral collectors remember and recall everything about it.

Tip # 2: Buy and Use a Book

If you are new to mineral collecting, you may have many questions to ask. With a good reference book on minerals or mineral collection, you will be able to get the answer to all your queries. Veteran mineral collectors suggest that a mineral collector who is new to the fray must invest in a good reference book on minerals to start with. By resolving every kind of technicality to understanding the types of minerals, a single reference book is enough to guide them.

Tip # 3: Join Nearest Mineral Club

Among all the tips, joining a mineral club can be one of the most attractive and advantageous options. Joining a local mineral club will help you go on trips with groups. Also, these clubs share their experiences, allowing you to learn about the ins and outs of minerals too. You must always choose a mineral club that suits your requirements. These clubs will be fun for you because they arrange field trips, give lectures and arrange social events for you to meet other collectors.

Tip # 4: Catalog Your Collection

Several mineral collectors have passed away but they have left behind their collection of minerals to serve as a source of reference and inspiration for others. For example, Joe Cilen died a long time ago but left 23,000 minerals specimens for other mineral lovers and collectors to see. You can also make a catalog out of your mineral collection with proper references and labels. This can be impressive and also encourage you to collect more. So, do not just box your collection; start cataloging them or else, you will just ending up finding the rare tourmaline you bought from Brazil.

The best way to catalog your collection is to use a spreadsheet. Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are two of the most popular sheets to use. You can organize and sort them anyway you desire, so it is definitely worthwhile the time to invest in organizing your minerals this way.

Though much of these tips are common, some beginners may not know about it. If you are also fond of collecting minerals, then you should follow these tips for a better mineral collecting experience.

Facts About Minerals That You May Have Forgotten

From the quartz inside your watch to the gemstones you wear on your fingers, we come across minerals every day. The Earth is abundant in minerals and humans cannot live without them, as they are one of the sources of keeping the human body functioning. Since minerals are such important elements in our lives, we are taught everything about them since childhood. But, there are some important facts about minerals that you may have forgotten.

Let’s recall them again.

Minerals are Inorganic

Minerals are inorganic, meaning that they do not belong to the class of organic compounds. Inorganic compounds are not made up of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates; instead, they are a result of natural activities that living things cannot carry out. In inorganic substances, carbon forms bonds with all the elements forming other objects such as plastic.

Mineral Occur Naturally

There is no doubt that minerals occur naturally and are not made by humans or are a result of any human activity. Scientists do not form minerals in laboratories; instead, they are formed by nature. Though there are some laboratories that produce minerals, they are not in their genuine form. In addition to this, there are certain elements that are not fully minerals such as mineraloids.  

Minerals are Formed by Chemical Composition

Every mineral has its own form of combination which cannot be found in other minerals. Several atoms in minerals connect together to form compounds. For example, salt forms crystals and it is a mineral too. Then, these crystals contain chlorine ions bonds and sodium together in a distinctive pattern. While there are some minerals which have more than one carbon atom, there are certain minerals such as gold, copper and silver which only contain one type of carbon atom.

Mineral are Solid in Nature

Mineral are solid in nature and cannot be gas or liquids. Charged atoms and ions bond together to form minerals which makes the structure solid. The minerals have a clearly definite shape and volume. In addition, their molecules cannot be compressed further. Moreover, their structure is rigid, making them impossible to move around.  

Mineral Have Crystalline Structure

Minerals come in a form of crystals that have an arrangement of ions and atoms in unit cells. These cells have different shapes due to the size of the atom and ions. Crystals normally take one of the shapes such as a prism or a cube. Also, these minerals are formed in 2 ways; in lava or magma form in the volcanoes, making crystallized minerals.

With this information, we hope you would have recalled the facts you studied about minerals in your science books in childhood. Come back and check with us again for more interesting information!

Understanding the Extraction and Processing of Minerals

A large part of the earth’s crust contains minerals. However, in some places, minerals are present in negligible quantities. Therefore, mining minerals in such places is not viable. Luckily, there are methods to determine which places have economically viable mineral deposits. Categorized as geological processes, these methods are used for finding as well as extracting economically viable mineral deposits.

The deposits come in various shapes and sizes. The two most commonly used methods for extracting/mining minerals are surface mining and underground mining. Let’s take a brief look at both these methods.

Surface Mining

Surface Mining
Surface Mining

Used to mine the metals and minerals present near the earth’s surface, surface mining is a much more economically viable option than underground mining. The three basic types of surface mining are quarry mining, strip mining, and open pit mining. Used to obtain all minerals except coal, open pit mining involves making cuts into the ground and working the area at that depth around the mine’s circumference. Also known as hard rock mining, open pit mining is generally used to mine metal ores such as aluminum, iron, gold, and copper.

Primarily used for extracting coal, strip mining involves the removal of rock and soil above a seam or layer. The removal of the exposed mineral is what follows next. The process is repeated until the exhaustion of the ore. Finally, quarry mining is used to extract the minerals used in granite, clay, sand, and gravel. In order to create the best fracturing, quarry mining starts off by blasting into to rock. Using crushing machines, rocks are reduced further.

Furthermore, they are separated based on size. However, blasting isn’t involved in the mining of ornamental stone. Instead, it involves a method known as broaching. In broaching, rather than using explosives, wedges are put into holes. The process involves hammering the wedges into the holes until the stones come off.

Underground Mining

Underground Mining Loulo Mali
Underground Mining in Loulo Mali

Used to mine valuable minerals and ores, underground mining is more dangerous than surface mining and involves harrowing into the ground to extract the minerals and ores. This method of mining minerals is very different form surface mining. Contrary to the popular belief, underground mining is used to mine a lot more than coal. For example, underground mining is the best way to access gold deposits. When mineral deposits are buried so deep that extracting them with surface mining is simply not possible, companies use underground mining.

There you have it—the ways of extracting and processing minerals. Using the aforementioned information, companies can choose the mining method that suits them best.

 

The Six Most Common Minerals and Their Uses

Lustre and Diaphaneity Minerals
Lustre and Diaphaneity Minerals

These shinny, naturally occurring, crystalline chemical compounds are the basic and important raw materials that are necessary for our social, technological and economic development. All segments of society utilize minerals. You will find minerals in the buildings you work and live in, as well as in the roads you drive on. Minerals are useful to humankind in more than one way. This is the reason their part of our everyday lives. So what are the common minerals and their uses? Let’s find out.

Quartz

Mined in Africa, Quartz is perfect for use in spectrographic and prism lenses as well as in heat-ray lamps. Why? This mineral is transparent in UV light and can turn the polarization light’s plane. Apart from the aforementioned things, quartz is utilized in precision instruments, abrasives, paints, glass, and refractory materials.

Aluminum

Of all the metallic elements in the Earth’s crust, aluminum is the most profuse. Aluminum is primarily extracted from bauxite ore. Usually, bauxite ore is mined in African and Latin American countries such as Brazil, Guinea, Jamaica, and Guyana. The United States does not produce any aluminum and imports it from the aforementioned countries. Aluminum is used in many different industries including building and construction, bottling and canning, packaging, electrical, airplanes, and automobiles.

Bauxite

Usually converted to aluminum, bauxite consists of hydrated aluminum oxides and is a rock mineral. Bauxite is generally mined in Africa. However, mining of bauxite takes place in other places as well such as Australia, South America, and the Caribbean.

Tungsten, tantalum, and tin

The main sources of revenue for the Republic of Congo, tungsten, tantalum and tin are used to manufacture mobile phones and computers (desktops and laptops). These minerals are primarily mined in African countries such as the Republic of Congo.

Copper

Copper is primarily mined in Australia, United States, China, Peru, and Chile. There are many things copper is used in including jewelry, general and consumer products, industrial equipment and machinery, electrical wires and cables, transportation, coins, electronic components, roofing materials, and electrical appliances.

Silver

Silver in primarily mined in Africa. However, mining also takes place in Asia and South America. Silver is used in many things including batteries, wound care bandages, coins, jewelry, medals, cell phone covers, catalytic converter, electronic and electrical devices, photography, silverware, and industrial applications.

There you have—some of the most common minerals and their uses. Using the aforementioned information, individuals, and companies can determine the minerals they need and where to get them from.

The Quest for Platinum

Platinum in Mineral FormPlatinum is an exotic mineral and a very expensive metal. Well-formed crystals of platinum are quite rare as platinum is usually found as a nugget or grain. Pure platinum is unknown in nature and is usually alloyed with other metals like iron, copper, nickel, gold, palladium, iridium, and others. It is a silver-white metal that is malleable and lustrous. It is very resistant to corrosion which makes it useful in both industrial applications and in fine jewelry.

Where to Find the Platinum Mineral

The element platinum is incredibly scarce in most crustal rock. Concentrated areas of platinum can be found in the Earth’s crust. Platinum was first discovered in South Africa in 1906. Currently, the largest known reserves (95%) of platinum are in the Bushveld complex in South Africa. Other areas with some platinum reserves can be found in Russia, Canada, as well as in the United States. High quantities of platinum also exist on the Moon and are also found in meteorites. Native platinum is the primary ore of platinum, but deposits containing the rare platinum arsenide, sperrylite of the pyrite group, have made a big contribution to the world’s limited supply.

History of Platinum

The earliest traces of platinum have been found in gold used in ancient Egyptian tombs and hieroglyphics. Early Egyptian’s knowledge of the metal remains unclear, researchers believe they did not recognize the platinum in their gold.

Platinum was first referred to by Italian humanist Julius Caesar Scaliger that described it as an unknown noble metal found between Panama and Mexico in 1557. At the time, the Spanish thought of it as an impurity they often found in gold and would throw it away. From then until the 18th century, platinum would be studied by various European metallurgists and chemists, including Henrik Sheffer that published one of the first detailed scientific descriptions of the metal calling it “white gold.”

Platinum’s Value

While platinum’s reputation is that of prestige and wealth, often perceived higher than gold, the actual price of platinum is unlike gold, it is quite volatile. In 2008, the price of platinum dropped from $2,252 to $774 per ounce and it is currently less than gold at $1,099 per ounce to gold’s $1,339.

Jeremejevite

JeremejeviteJeremejevite, pronounced ye-REM-ay-ev-ite, is one of the rarest and most expensive gemstones in the world. It is a rare aluminum borate mineral with variable fluoride and hydroxide ions. Its chemical formula is Al6B5O15(F,OH)3.

Aesthetic Beauty

Jeremejevite’s crystal system is hexagonal with a Mohs hardness of 7. This spectacular gem occurs in well-formed, sharply crystallized, prismatic obelisk prisms with lustrous surfaces. Sometimes it appears two-toned with a blue base and white terminations. It can come in white, yellowish, greenish, blue and violet colors as well as clear.

Jeremejevite Locations

Deposits of Jeremejevite have been found in the Erongo mountains in Namibia as well as in the Soktuy Mountains in Russia, the Eifel mountains in Germany, in the Pamir mountains in Tajikistan, and in Madagascar.

Jeremejevite History

Jeremejevite was first discovered in 1883 and named in honor of Russian mineralogist Pavel Vladimirovich Eremeev. The first crystals ever discovered were found in the Soktuy mountains  of the Adun-Cholon Range in Transbaikal, Russia. These first specimens consisted of a couple colorless, prismatic crystals. It wasn’t until 1973 that a second deposit of Jeremejevite was found in Swakopmund, Namibia by a woman that frequently spend her time walking behind her husband’s grader collecting pretty rocks.

These specimens were deep blue and were incorrectly identified as aquamarine. An analysis by the Gemological Institute of America confirmed the specimens were in fact jeremejevite. The third occurrence of the mineral was found in the Eifel mountains in Germany as blue and also yellowish crystals. The last discovery of jeremejevite was in 2001 in the Erongo mountains in Namibia. Other minerals such as aquamarine and tourmaline have been found there as well.

Jeremejevite Matches That of Platinum in Value

Only a small number of jeremejevite crystals have been faceted. This gem is usually purchased as mineral specimens by collectors. Due to its rarity and intrinsic beauty, fine or unique specimens can be quite valuable, costing as much as $2,000 per carat.

Painite

Painite MineralPainite was recognized as a new mineral when it was discovered in a sample in Burma in the 1950s. For decades, only two crystals of this ultra rare mineral were known to exist. Painite was named after its discoverer, British mineralogist Arthur C. D. Pain. No cut gems are currently known. The color of painite varies from dark red to orange-red and brownish. Its color and density closely resembles garnet which means there may be cut gems in existence that have been misidentified as ruby or garnet.

History

Prior to mid-2005, only 25 painites had been found including two that were faceted gemstones. The first painite crystal, weighing 1.7 grams, was donated by Arthur C.D. Pain to the British Museum of Natural History in London. An earlier painite sample was discovered in the British Museum having been misidentified as brown tourmaline with rubies from Mogok, Burma. This sample was found to be painite by electron microprobe analysis in late 2007. A dark, 2.118 gram painite known as Painite #2 is currently on public display in the British Museum. Several painities are in private collections while there rest have been distributed among the British Museum, the Gemological Institute of America, the Smithsonian, the California Institute of Technology, and the Research Laboratory in Lucerne, Switzerland.

In early 2006, a large deposit of painite was found in Burma. The painite crystals however were a thick maroon-brown with a significantly lower value than crystals found previously. This new deposit brought the total number of genuine painites known worldwide to 330.