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.

 

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