Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological
materials from the earth, usually from an orebody, lode, vein, seam,
reef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized package that
is of economic interest to the miner.
Ores recovered by mining include metals, coal, oil shale, gemstones,
limestone, chalk, dimension stone, rock salt, potash, gravel, and
Mining is required to obtain any material that cannot be grown
through agricultural processes, or created artificially in a
laboratory or factory.
Mining in a wider sense includes extraction of
any non-renewable resource such as petroleum, natural gas, or even
Mining of stones and metal has been a human activity since
pre-historic times. Modern mining processes involve prospecting for
ore bodies, analysis of the profit potential of a proposed mine,
extraction of the desired materials, and final reclamation of the land
after the mine is closed. De Re Metallica, Georgius Agricola, 1550,
Book I, Para. 1
Mining operations usually create a negative environmental impact, both
during the mining activity and after the mine has closed. Hence, most
of the world's nations have passed regulations to decrease the impact.
Work safety has long been a concern as well, and modern practices have
significantly improved safety in mines.
Levels of metals recycling are generally low. Unless future
end-of-life recycling rates are stepped up, some rare metals may
become unavailable for use in a variety of consumer products. Due to
the low recycling rates, some landfills now contain higher
concentrations of metal than mines themselves.
1.1 Prehistoric mining
1.2 Ancient Egypt
1.3 Ancient Greek and Roman mining
1.4 Medieval Europe
1.5 Classical Philippine civilization
1.6 The Americas
1.7 Modern period
2 Mine development and lifecycle
3.1 Surface mining
3.2 Underground mining
3.3 Highwall mining
6 Environmental effects
6.2 Renewable energy and mining
7.1 Corporate classifications
7.2 Regulation and governance
7.3 World Bank
Metal reserves and recycling
11 See also
13 Further reading
14 External links
Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert
Since the beginning of civilization, people have used stone, ceramics
and, later, metals found close to the Earth's surface. These were used
to make early tools and weapons; for example, high quality flint found
in northern France, southern
England and Poland was used to create
Flint mines have been found in chalk areas where seams
of the stone were followed underground by shafts and galleries. The
Grimes Graves and
Krzemionki are especially famous, and like
most other flint mines, are
Neolithic in origin (ca 4000–3000 BC).
Other hard rocks mined or collected for axes included the greenstone
Langdale axe industry
Langdale axe industry based in the English Lake District.
The oldest-known mine on archaeological record is the
Ngwenya Mine in
Swaziland, which radiocarbon dating shows to be about 43,000 years
old. At this site
Paleolithic humans mined hematite to make the red
pigment ochre. Mines of a similar age in
Hungary are believed to
be sites where Neanderthals may have mined flint for weapons and
Egyptians mined malachite at Maadi. At first, Egyptians
used the bright green malachite stones for ornamentations and pottery.
Later, between 2613 and 2494 BC, large building projects required
expeditions abroad to the area of
Wadi Maghareh in order to secure
minerals and other resources not available in Egypt itself.
Quarries for turquoise and copper were also found at Wadi Hammamat,
Aswan and various other Nubian sites on the
Sinai Peninsula and
Mining in Egypt
Mining in Egypt occurred in the earliest dynasties. The gold mines of
Nubia were among the largest and most extensive of any in Ancient
Egypt. These mines are described by the Greek author Diodorus Siculus,
who mentions fire-setting as one method used to break down the hard
rock holding the gold. One of the complexes is shown in one of the
earliest known maps. The miners crushed the ore and ground it to a
fine powder before washing the powder for the gold dust.
Ancient Greek and Roman mining
Mining in Roman Britain
Ancient Roman development of the
Gold Mines, Wales
Mining in Europe has a very long history. Examples include the silver
mines of Laurium, which helped support the Greek city state of Athens.
Although they had over 20,000 slaves working them, their technology
was essentially identical to their Bronze Age predecessors. At
other mines, such as on the island of Thassos, marble was quarried by
the Parians after they arrived in the 7th Century BC. The marble
was shipped away and was later found by archaeologists to have been
used in buildings including the tomb of Amphipolis. Philip II of
Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, captured the gold mines of
Mount Pangeo in 357 BC to fund his military campaigns. He also
captured gold mines in Thrace for minting coinage, eventually
producing 26 tons per year.
However, it was the Romans who developed large scale mining methods,
especially the use of large volumes of water brought to the minehead
by numerous aqueducts. The water was used for a variety of purposes,
including removing overburden and rock debris, called hydraulic
mining, as well as washing comminuted, or crushed, ores and driving
The Romans used hydraulic mining methods on a large scale to prospect
for the veins of ore, especially a now-obsolete form of mining known
as hushing. They built numerous aqueducts to supply water to the
minehead. There, the water stored in large reservoirs and tanks. When
a full tank was opened, the flood of water sluiced away the overburden
to expose the bedrock underneath and any gold veins. The rock was then
worked upon by fire-setting to heat the rock, which would be quenched
with a stream of water. The resulting thermal shock cracked the rock,
enabling it to be removed by further streams of water from the
overhead tanks. The Roman miners used similar methods to work
cassiterite deposits in
Cornwall and lead ore in the Pennines.
The methods had been developed by the Romans in
Spain in 25 AD to
exploit large alluvial gold deposits, the largest site being at Las
Medulas, where seven long aqueducts tapped local rivers and sluiced
Spain was one of the most important mining regions, but
all regions of the
Roman Empire were exploited. In Great Britain the
natives had mined minerals for millennia, but after the Roman
conquest, the scale of the operations increased dramatically, as the
Romans needed Britannia's resources, especially gold, silver, tin, and
Roman techniques were not limited to surface mining. They followed the
ore veins underground once opencast mining was no longer feasible. At
Dolaucothi they stoped out the veins and drove adits through bare rock
to drain the stopes. The same adits were also used to ventilate the
workings, especially important when fire-setting was used. At other
parts of the site, they penetrated the water table and dewatered the
mines using several kinds of machines, especially reverse overshot
water-wheels. These were used extensively in the copper mines at Rio
Tinto in Spain, where one sequence comprised 16 such wheels arranged
in pairs, and lifting water about 24 metres (79 ft). They were
worked as treadmills with miners standing on the top slats. Many
examples of such devices have been found in old Roman mines and some
examples are now preserved in the
British Museum and the National
Museum of Wales.
Mining and metallurgy in medieval Europe
Agricola, author of De Re Metallica
Gallery, 12th to 13th century, Germany
Mining as an industry underwent dramatic changes in medieval Europe.
The mining industry in the early
Middle Ages was mainly focused on the
extraction of copper and iron. Other precious metals were also used,
mainly for gilding or coinage. Initially, many metals were obtained
through open-pit mining, and ore was primarily extracted from shallow
depths, rather than through deep mine shafts. Around the 14th century,
the growing use of weapons, armour, stirrups, and horseshoes greatly
increased the demand for iron. Medieval knights, for example, were
often laden with up to 100 pounds (45 kg) of plate or chain link
armour in addition to swords, lances and other weapons. The
overwhelming dependency on iron for military purposes spurred iron
production and extraction processes.
The silver crisis of 1465 occurred when all mines had reached depths
at which the shafts could no longer be pumped dry with the available
technology. Although an increased use of bank notes, credit and
copper coins during this period did decrease the value of, and
dependence on, precious metals, gold and silver still remained vital
to the story of medieval mining.
Due to differences in the social structure of society, the increasing
extraction of mineral deposits spread from central Europe to England
in the mid-sixteenth century. On the continent, mineral deposits
belonged to the crown, and this regalian right was stoutly maintained.
But in England, royal mining rights were restricted to gold and silver
England had virtually no deposits) by a judicial decision of
1568 and a law in 1688.
England had iron, zinc, copper, lead, and tin
ores. Landlords who owned the base metals and coal under their estates
then had a strong inducement to extract these metals or to lease the
deposits and collect royalties from mine operators. English, German,
and Dutch capital combined to finance extraction and refining.
Hundreds of German technicians and skilled workers were brought over;
in 1642 a colony of 4,000 foreigners was mining and smelting copper at
Keswick in the northwestern mountains.
Use of water power in the form of water mills was extensive. The water
mills were employed in crushing ore, raising ore from shafts, and
ventilating galleries by powering giant bellows. Black powder was
first used in mining in Selmecbánya, Kingdom of
Hungary (now Banská
Štiavnica, Slovakia) in 1627. Black powder allowed blasting of
rock and earth to loosen and reveal ore veins. Blasting was much
faster than fire-setting and allowed the mining of previously
impenetrable metals and ores. In 1762, the world's first mining
academy was established in the same town there.
The widespread adoption of agricultural innovations such as the iron
plowshare, as well as the growing use of metal as a building material,
was also a driving force in the tremendous growth of the iron industry
during this period. Inventions like the arrastra were often used by
the Spanish to pulverize ore after being mined. This device was
powered by animals and used the same principles used for grain
Much of the knowledge of medieval mining techniques comes from books
such as Biringuccio’s
De la pirotechnia
De la pirotechnia and probably most
importantly from Georg Agricola's
De re metallica
De re metallica (1556). These books
detail many different mining methods used in German and Saxon mines. A
prime issue in medieval mines, which Agricola explains in detail, was
the removal of water from mining shafts. As miners dug deeper to
access new veins, flooding became a very real obstacle. The mining
industry became dramatically more efficient and prosperous with the
invention of mechanical and animal driven pumps.
Classical Philippine civilization
See also: Cultural achievements of pre-colonial Philippines
The image of a
Maharlika class of the Philippine Society , depicted in
Boxer Codex that the
Gold used as a form of
Mining in the Philippines began around 1000 BC. The early Filipinos
worked various mines of gold, silver, copper and iron. Jewels, gold
ingots, chains, calombigas and earrings were handed down from
antiquity and inherited from their ancestors.
Gold dagger handles,
gold dishes, tooth plating, and huge gold ornamets were also used.
In Laszlo Legeza's "Tantric elements in pre-Hispanic Philippines Gold
Art", he mentioned that gold jewelry of Philippine origin was found in
Ancient Egypt. According to Antonio Pigafetta, the people of
Mindoro possessed great skill in mixing gold with other metals and
gave it a natural and perfect appearance that could deceive even the
best of silversmiths. The natives were also known for the
jewelries made of other precious stones such as carnelian, agate and
pearl. Some outstanding examples of Philippine jewelry included
necklaces, belts, armlets and rings placed around the waist.
Lead mining in the upper
Mississippi River region of the U.S., 1865.
There are ancient, prehistoric copper mines along Lake Superior, and
metallic copper was still found there, near the surface, in colonial
times.   
Indigenous peoples availed themselves of this copper starting at least
5,000 years ago," and copper tools, arrowheads, and other
artifacts that were part of an extensive native trade network have
been discovered. In addition, obsidian, flint, and other minerals were
mined, worked, and traded. Early French explorers who encountered
the sites[clarification needed] made no use of the metals due to the
difficulties of transporting them, but the copper was eventually
traded throughout the continent along major river routes.
Miners at the Tamarack Mine in
Copper Country, Michigan, U.S. in 1905.
In the early colonial history of the Americas, "native gold and silver
was quickly expropriated and sent back to
Spain in fleets of gold- and
silver-laden galleons," the gold and silver originating mostly
from mines in Central and South America.
Turquoise dated at 700 AD was
mined in pre-Columbian America; in the Cerillos
Mining District in New
Mexico, estimates are that "about 15,000 tons of rock had been removed
from Mt. Chalchihuitl using stone tools before 1700."
Mining in the United States
Mining in the United States became prevalent in the 19th century, and
General Mining Act of 1872
General Mining Act of 1872 was passed to encourage mining of
federal lands. As with the California
Gold Rush in the mid-19th
century, mining for minerals and precious metals, along with ranching,
was a driving factor in the
Westward Expansion to the Pacific coast.
With the exploration of the West, mining camps were established and
"expressed a distinctive spirit, an enduring legacy to the new
Gold Rushers would experience the same problems as the Land
Rushers of the transient West that preceded them. Aided by
railroads, many traveled West for work opportunities in mining.
Western cities such as Denver and Sacramento originated as mining
When new areas were explored, it was usually the gold (placer and then
lode) and then silver that were taken into possession and extracted
first. Other metals would often wait for railroads or canals, as
coarse gold dust and nuggets do not require smelting and are easy to
identify and transport.
View showing miners’ clothes suspended by pulleys, also wash basins
and ventilation system, Kirkland Lake, Ontario, 1936.
In the early 20th century, the gold and silver rush to the western
United States also stimulated mining for coal as well as base metals
such as copper, lead, and iron. Areas in modern Montana, Utah,
Arizona, and later Alaska became predominate suppliers of copper to
the world, which was increasingly demanding copper for electrical and
households goods. Canada's mining industry grew more slowly than
did the United States' due to limitations in transportation, capital,
and U.S. competition; Ontario was the major producer of the early 20th
century with nickel, copper, and gold.
Meanwhile, Australia experienced the
Australian gold rushes
Australian gold rushes and by the
1850s was producing 40% of the world's gold, followed by the
establishment of large mines such as the Mount Morgan Mine, which ran
for nearly a hundred years,
Broken Hill ore deposit
Broken Hill ore deposit (one of the
largest zinc-lead ore deposits), and the iron ore mines at Iron Knob.
After declines in production, another boom in mining occurred in the
1960s. Now, in the early 21st century, Australia remains a major world
As the 21st century begins, a globalized mining industry of large
multinational corporations has arisen.
Peak minerals and environmental
impacts have also become a concern. Different elements, particularly
rare earth minerals, have begun to increase in demand as a result of
Mine development and lifecycle
Schematic of a cut and fill mining operation in hard rock.
The process of mining from discovery of an ore body through extraction
of minerals and finally to returning the land to its natural state
consists of several distinct steps. The first is discovery of the ore
body, which is carried out through prospecting or exploration to find
and then define the extent, location and value of the ore body. This
leads to a mathematical resource estimation to estimate the size and
grade of the deposit.
This estimation is used to conduct a pre-feasibility study to
determine the theoretical economics of the ore deposit. This
identifies, early on, whether further investment in estimation and
engineering studies is warranted and identifies key risks and areas
for further work. The next step is to conduct a feasibility study to
evaluate the financial viability, the technical and financial risks,
and the robustness of the project.
This is when the mining company makes the decision whether to develop
the mine or to walk away from the project. This includes mine planning
to evaluate the economically recoverable portion of the deposit, the
metallurgy and ore recoverability, marketability and payability of the
ore concentrates, engineering concerns, milling and infrastructure
costs, finance and equity requirements, and an analysis of the
proposed mine from the initial excavation all the way through to
reclamation. The proportion of a deposit that is economically
recoverable is dependent on the enrichment factor of the ore in the
To gain access to the mineral deposit within an area it is often
necessary to mine through or remove waste material which is not of
immediate interest to the miner. The total movement of ore and waste
constitutes the mining process. Often more waste than ore is mined
during the life of a mine, depending on the nature and location of the
ore body. Waste removal and placement is a major cost to the mining
operator, so a detailed characterization of the waste material forms
an essential part of the geological exploration program for a mining
Once the analysis determines a given ore body is worth recovering,
development begins to create access to the ore body. The mine
buildings and processing plants are built, and any necessary equipment
is obtained. The operation of the mine to recover the ore begins and
continues as long as the company operating the mine finds it
economical to do so. Once all the ore that the mine can produce
profitably is recovered, reclamation begins to make the land used by
the mine suitable for future use.
Underground longwall mining.
Mining techniques can be divided into two common excavation types:
surface mining and sub-surface (underground) mining. Today, surface
mining is much more common, and produces, for example, 85% of minerals
(excluding petroleum and natural gas) in the United States, including
98% of metallic ores.
Targets are divided into two general categories of materials: placer
deposits, consisting of valuable minerals contained within river
gravels, beach sands, and other unconsolidated materials; and lode
deposits, where valuable minerals are found in veins, in layers, or in
mineral grains generally distributed throughout a mass of actual rock.
Both types of ore deposit, placer or lode, are mined by both surface
and underground methods.
Some mining, including much of the rare earth elements and uranium
mining, is done by less-common methods, such as in-situ leaching: this
technique involves digging neither at the surface nor underground. The
extraction of target minerals by this technique requires that they be
soluble, e.g., potash, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, sodium
sulfate, which dissolve in water. Some minerals, such as copper
minerals and uranium oxide, require acid or carbonate solutions to
Main article: Surface mining
Surface mining is done by removing (stripping) surface vegetation,
dirt, and, if necessary, layers of bedrock in order to reach buried
ore deposits. Techniques of surface mining include: open-pit mining,
which is the recovery of materials from an open pit in the ground,
quarrying, identical to open-pit mining except that it refers to sand,
stone and clay; strip mining, which consists of stripping surface
layers off to reveal ore/seams underneath; and mountaintop removal,
commonly associated with coal mining, which involves taking the top of
a mountain off to reach ore deposits at depth. Most (but not all)
placer deposits, because of their shallowly buried nature, are mined
by surface methods. Finally, landfill mining involves sites where
landfills are excavated and processed.
Landfill mining has been
thought of as a solution to dealing with long-term methane emissions
and local pollution
Garzweiler surface mine, Germany
Underground mining (hard rock)
Underground mining (hard rock) and Underground mining
Mantrip used for transporting miners within an underground mine
Sub-surface mining consists of digging tunnels or shafts into the
earth to reach buried ore deposits. Ore, for processing, and waste
rock, for disposal, are brought to the surface through the tunnels and
shafts. Sub-surface mining can be classified by the type of access
shafts used, the extraction method or the technique used to reach the
Drift mining utilizes horizontal access tunnels,
slope mining uses diagonally sloping access shafts, and shaft mining
utilizes vertical access shafts.
Mining in hard and soft rock
formations require different techniques.
Other methods include shrinkage stope mining, which is mining upward,
creating a sloping underground room, long wall mining, which is
grinding a long ore surface underground, and room and pillar mining,
which is removing ore from rooms while leaving pillars in place to
support the roof of the room.
Room and pillar
Room and pillar mining often leads to
retreat mining, in which supporting pillars are removed as miners
retreat, allowing the room to cave in, thereby loosening more ore.
Additional sub-surface mining methods include hard rock mining, which
is mining of hard rock (igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary)
materials, bore hole mining, drift and fill mining, long hole slope
mining, sub level caving, and block caving.
Caterpillar Highwall Miner HW300 - Technology Bridging Underground and
Open Pit Mining
Highwall mining is another form of surface mining that evolved from
auger mining. In Highwall mining, the coal seam is penetrated by a
continuous miner propelled by a hydraulic Pushbeam Transfer Mechanism
(PTM). A typical cycle includes sumping (launch-pushing forward) and
shearing (raising and lowering the cutterhead boom to cut the entire
height of the coal seam). As the coal recovery cycle continues, the
cutterhead is progressively launched into the coal seam for 19.72 feet
(6.01 m). Then, the Pushbeam Transfer Mechanism (PTM) automatically
inserts a 19.72-foot (6.01 m) long rectangular Pushbeam
(Screw-Conveyor Segment) into the center section of the machine
between the Powerhead and the cutterhead. The Pushbeam system can
penetrate nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) into the coal seam. One patented
Highwall mining system uses augers enclosed inside the Pushbeam that
prevent the mined coal from being contaminated by rock debris during
the conveyance process. Using a video imaging and/or a gamma ray
sensor and/or other Geo-Radar systems like a coal-rock interface
detection sensor (CID), the operator can see ahead projection of the
seam-rock interface and guide the continuous miner's progress.
Highwall mining can produce thousands of tons of coal in contour-strip
operations with narrow benches, previously mined areas, trench mine
applications and steep-dip seams with controlled water-inflow pump
system and/or a gas (inert) venting system.
Bagger 288 is a bucket-wheel excavator used in strip mining. It is
also the largest land vehicle of all time.
A Bucyrus Erie 2570 dragline and CAT 797 haul truck at the North
Antelope Rochelle opencut coal mine
Heavy machinery is used in mining to explore and develop sites, to
remove and stockpile overburden, to break and remove rocks of various
hardness and toughness, to process the ore, and to carry out
reclamation projects after the mine is closed. Bulldozers, drills,
explosives and trucks are all necessary for excavating the land. In
the case of placer mining, unconsolidated gravel, or alluvium, is fed
into machinery consisting of a hopper and a shaking screen or trommel
which frees the desired minerals from the waste gravel. The minerals
are then concentrated using sluices or jigs.
Large drills are used to sink shafts, excavate stopes, and obtain
samples for analysis. Trams are used to transport miners, minerals and
waste. Lifts carry miners into and out of mines, and move rock and ore
out, and machinery in and out, of underground mines. Huge trucks,
shovels and cranes are employed in surface mining to move large
quantities of overburden and ore. Processing plants utilize large
crushers, mills, reactors, roasters and other equipment to consolidate
the mineral-rich material and extract the desired compounds and metals
from the ore.
Mineral processing and Extractive metallurgy
Once the mineral is extracted, it is often then processed. The science
of extractive metallurgy is a specialized area in the science of
metallurgy that studies the extraction of valuable metals from their
ores, especially through chemical or mechanical means.
Mineral processing (or mineral dressing) is a specialized area in the
science of metallurgy that studies the mechanical means of crushing,
grinding, and washing that enable the separation (extractive
metallurgy) of valuable metals or minerals from their gangue (waste
material). Processing of placer ore material consists of
gravity-dependent methods of separation, such as sluice boxes. Only
minor shaking or washing may be necessary to disaggregate (unclump)
the sands or gravels before processing. Processing of ore from a lode
mine, whether it is a surface or subsurface mine, requires that the
rock ore be crushed and pulverized before extraction of the valuable
minerals begins. After lode ore is crushed, recovery of the valuable
minerals is done by one, or a combination of several, mechanical and
Since most metals are present in ores as oxides or sulfides, the metal
needs to be reduced to its metallic form. This can be accomplished
through chemical means such as smelting or through electrolytic
reduction, as in the case of aluminium.
Geometallurgy combines the
geologic sciences with extractive metallurgy and mining.
Main article: Environmental impact of mining
Iron hydroxide precipitate stains a stream receiving acid drainage
from surface coal mining.
Environmental issues can include erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss
of biodiversity, and contamination of soil, groundwater and surface
water by chemicals from mining processes. In some cases, additional
forest logging is done in the vicinity of mines to create space for
the storage of the created debris and soil. Contamination
resulting from leakage of chemicals can also affect the health of the
local population if not properly controlled. Extreme examples of
pollution from mining activities include coal fires, which can last
for years or even decades, producing massive amounts of environmental
Mining companies in most countries are required to follow stringent
environmental and rehabilitation codes in order to minimize
environmental impact and avoid impacting human health. These codes and
regulations all require the common steps of environmental impact
assessment, development of environmental management plans, mine
closure planning (which must be done before the start of mining
operations), and environmental monitoring during operation and after
closure. However, in some areas, particularly in the developing world,
government regulations may not be well enforced.
For major mining companies and any company seeking international
financing, there are a number of other mechanisms to enforce good
environmental standards. These generally relate to financing standards
such as the Equator Principles, IFC environmental standards, and
criteria for Socially responsible investing.
Mining companies have
used this oversight from the financial sector to argue for some level
of industry self-regulation. In 1992, a Draft Code of Conduct for
Transnational Corporations was proposed at the Rio
Earth Summit by the
UN Centre for Transnational Corporations (UNCTC), but the Business
Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) together with the
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) argued successfully for
This was followed by the Global
Mining Initiative which was begun by
nine of the largest metals and mining companies and which led to the
formation of the International Council on
Mining and Metals, whose
purpose was to "act as a catalyst" in an effort to improve social and
environmental performance in the mining and metals industry
internationally. The mining industry has provided funding to
various conservation groups, some of which have been working with
conservation agendas that are at odds with an emerging acceptance of
the rights of indigenous people – particularly the right to make
Certification of mines with good practices occurs through the
International Organization for Standardization
International Organization for Standardization (ISO). For example, ISO
9000 and ISO 14001, which certify an "auditable environmental
management system", involve short inspections, although they have been
accused of lacking rigor[clarification needed].:183–4
Certification is also available through Ceres' Global Reporting
Initiative, but these reports are voluntary and unverified.
Miscellaneous other certification programs exist for various projects,
typically through nonprofit groups.:185–6
The purpose of a 2012 EPS PEAKS paper was to provide evidence on
policies managing ecological costs and maximise socio-economic
benefits of mining using host country regulatory initiatives. It found
existing literature suggesting donors encourage developing countries
Make the environment-poverty link and introduce cutting-edge wealth
measures and natural capital accounts.
Reform old taxes in line with more recent financial innovation, engage
directly with the companies, enacting land use and impact assessments,
and incorporate specialised support and standards agencies.
Set in play transparency and community participation initiatives using
the wealth accrued.
Ore mills generate large amounts of waste, called tailings. For
example, 99 tons of waste are generated per ton of copper, with
even higher ratios in gold mining - because only 5.3 g of gold is
extracted per ton of ore, a ton of gold produces 200,000 tons of
tailings. (As time goes on and richer deposits are exhausted - and
technology improves to permit - this number is going down to .5 g and
less.) These tailings can be toxic. Tailings, which are usually
produced as a slurry, are most commonly dumped into ponds made from
naturally existing valleys. These ponds are secured by
impoundments (dams or embankment dams). In 2000 it was estimated
that 3,500 tailings impoundments existed, and that every year, 2 to 5
major failures and 35 minor failures occurred; for example, in the
Marcopper mining disaster at least 2 million tons of tailings were
released into a local river. In central Finland, Talvivaara
Terrafame polymetal mine waste effluent since 2008 and numerous leaks
of saline mine water has resulted in ecological collapse of nearby
lake. Subaqueous tailings disposal is another option. The
mining industry has argued that submarine tailings disposal (STD),
which disposes of tailings in the sea, is ideal because it avoids the
risks of tailings ponds; although the practice is illegal in the
United States and Canada, it is used in the developing world.
The waste is classified as either sterile or mineralised, with acid
generating potential, and the movement and storage of this material
forms a major part of the mine planning process. When the mineralised
package is determined by an economic cut-off, the near-grade
mineralised waste is usually dumped separately with view to later
treatment should market conditions change and it becomes economically
viable. Civil engineering design parameters are used in the design of
the waste dumps, and special conditions apply to high-rainfall areas
and to seismically active areas. Waste dump designs must meet all
regulatory requirements of the country in whose jurisdiction the mine
is located. It is also common practice to rehabilitate dumps to an
internationally acceptable standard, which in some cases means that
higher standards than the local regulatory standard are applied.
Renewable energy and mining
Many mining sites are remote and not connected to the grid.
Electricity is typically generated with diesel generators. Due to high
transportation cost and theft during transportation the cost for
generating electricity is normally high. Renewable energy applications
are becoming an alternative or amendment. Both solar and wind power
plants can contribute in saving diesel costs at mining sites.
Renewable energy applications have been built at mining sites.
Cost savings can reach up to 70%.
Main articles: List of mines, List of mining companies,
Mining companies, and Category:
Mining industry by country
Mining exists in many countries. London is known as the capital of
global "mining houses" such as Rio Tinto Group, BHP Billiton, and
Anglo American PLC. The US mining industry is also large, but it
is dominated by the coal and other nonmetal minerals (e.g., rock and
sand), and various regulations have worked to reduce the significance
of mining in the United States. In 2007 the total market
capitalization of mining companies was reported at US$962 billion,
which compares to a total global market cap of publicly traded
companies of about US$50 trillion in 2007. In 2002,
Chile and Peru
were reportedly the major mining countries of South America. The
mineral industry of Africa includes the mining of various minerals; it
produces relatively little of the industrial metals copper, lead, and
zinc, but according to one estimate has as a percent of world reserves
40% of gold, 60% of cobalt, and 90% of the world's platinum group
Mining in India
Mining in India is a significant part of that country's
economy. In the developed world, mining in Australia, with BHP
Billiton founded and headquartered in the country, and mining in
Canada are particularly significant. For rare earth minerals mining,
China reportedly controlled 95% of production in 2013.
Bingham Canyon Mine
Bingham Canyon Mine of Rio Tinto's subsidiary, Kennecott Utah
While exploration and mining can be conducted by individual
entrepreneurs or small businesses, most modern-day mines are large
enterprises requiring large amounts of capital to establish.
Consequently, the mining sector of the industry is dominated by large,
often multinational, companies, most of them publicly listed. It can
be argued that what is referred to as the 'mining industry' is
actually two sectors, one specializing in exploration for new
resources and the other in mining those resources. The exploration
sector is typically made up of individuals and small mineral resource
companies, called "juniors", which are dependent on venture capital.
The mining sector is made up of large multinational companies that are
sustained by production from their mining operations. Various other
industries such as equipment manufacture, environmental testing, and
metallurgy analysis rely on, and support, the mining industry
throughout the world. Canadian stock exchanges have a particular focus
on mining companies, particularly junior exploration companies through
Toronto's TSX Venture Exchange; Canadian companies raise capital on
these exchanges and then invest the money in exploration globally.
Some have argued that below juniors there exists a substantial sector
of illegitimate companies primarily focused on manipulating stock
Mining operations can be grouped into five major categories in terms
of their respective resources. These are oil and gas extraction, coal
mining, metal ore mining, nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying,
and mining support activities. Of all of these categories, oil and
gas extraction remains one of the largest in terms of its global
Prospecting potential mining sites, a vital area
of concern for the mining industry, is now done using sophisticated
new technologies such as seismic prospecting and remote-sensing
Mining is heavily affected by the prices of the commodity
minerals, which are often volatile. The 2000s commodities boom
("commodities supercycle") increased the prices of commodities,
driving aggressive mining. In addition, the price of gold increased
dramatically in the 2000s, which increased gold mining; for example,
one study found that conversion of forest in the Amazon increased
six-fold from the period 2003–2006 (292 ha/yr) to the period
2006–2009 (1,915 ha/yr), largely due to artisanal mining.
Mining companies can be classified based on their size and financial
Major companies are considered to have an adjusted annual
mining-related revenue of more than US$500 million, with the financial
capability to develop a major mine on its own.
Intermediate companies have at least $50 million in annual revenue but
less than $500 million.
Junior companies rely on equity financing as their principal means of
funding exploration. Juniors are mainly pure exploration companies,
but may also produce minimally, and do not have a revenue exceeding
Regulation and governance
New regulations and a process of legislative reforms aim to improve
the harmonization and stability of the mining sector in mineral-rich
countries. New legislation for mining industry in African
countries still appears to be an issue, but has the potential to be
solved, when a consensus is reached on the best approach. By the
beginning of the 21st century the booming and increasingly complex
mining sector in mineral-rich countries was providing only slight
benefits to local communities, especially in given the sustainability
issues. Increasing debate and influence by
NGOs and local communities
called for a new approahes which would also include disadvantaged
communities, and work towards sustainable development even after mine
closure (including transparency and revenue management). By the early
2000s, community development issues and resettlements became
mainstream concerns in
World Bank mining projects. Mining-industry
expansion after mineral prices increased in 2003 and also potential
fiscal revenues in those countries created an omission in the other
economic sectors in terms of finances and development. Furthermore,
this highlighted regional and local demand for mining revenues and an
inability of sub-national governments to effectively use the revenues.
Fraser Institute (a Canadian think tank) has
highlighted[clarification needed] the environmental protection laws in
developing countries, as well as voluntary efforts by mining companies
to improve their environmental impact.
In 2007 the
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was
mainstreamed[clarification needed] in all countries cooperating with
World Bank in mining industry reform. The EITI operates and
was implemented with the support of the EITI multi-donor trust fund,
managed by the World Bank. The EITI aims to increase transparency
in transactions between governments and companies in extractive
industries by monitoring the revenues and benefits between
industries and recipient governments. The entrance process is
voluntary for each country and is monitored by multiple stakeholders
including governments, private companies and civil society
representatives, responsible for disclosure and dissemination of the
reconciliation report; however, the competitive disadvantage of
company-by company public report is for some of the businesses in
Ghana at least, the main constraint. Therefore, the outcome
assessment in terms of failure or success of the new EITI regulation
does not only "rest on the government's shoulders" but also on civil
society and companies.
On the other hand, implementation has issues; inclusion or exclusion
of artisanal mining and small-scale mining (ASM) from the EITI and how
to deal with "non-cash" payments made by companies to subnational
governments. Furthermore, the disproportionate revenues the mining
industry can bring to the comparatively small number of people that it
employs, causes other problems, like a lack of investment in other
less lucrative sectors, leading to swings in government revenuebecause
of volatility in the oil markets.
Artisanal mining is clearly an issue
in EITI Countries such as the Central African Republic, D.R. Congo,
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – i.e. almost half of the mining
countries implementing the EITI. Among other things, limited scope
of the EITI involving disparity in terms of knowledge of the industry
and negotiation skills, thus far flexibility of the policy (e.g.
liberty of the countries to expand beyond the minimum requirements and
adapt it to their needs), creates another risk of unsuccessful
implementation. Public awareness increase, where government should act
as a bridge between public and initiative for a successful outcome of
the policy is an important element to be considered.
World Bank has been involved in mining since 1955, mainly through
grants from its International Bank for Reconstruction and Development,
with the Bank's
Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency
Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency offering
political risk insurance. Between 1955 and 1990 it provided about
$2 billion to fifty mining projects, broadly categorized as reform and
rehabilitation, greenfield mine construction, mineral processing,
technical assistance, and engineering. These projects have been
criticized, particularly the Ferro Carajas project of Brazil, begun in
World Bank established mining codes intended to increase
foreign investment; in 1988 it solicited feedback from 45 mining
companies on how to increase their involvement.:20
In 1992 the
World Bank began to push for privatization of
government-owned mining companies with a new set of codes, beginning
with its report The Strategy for African Mining. In 1997, Latin
America's largest miner Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) was
privatized. These and other developments such as the Philippines 1995
Mining Act led the bank to publish a third report (Assistance for
Minerals Sector Development and Reform in Member Countries) which
endorsed mandatory environment impact assessments and attention to the
concerns of the local population. The codes based on this report are
influential in the legislation of developing nations. The new codes
are intended to encourage development through tax holidays, zero
custom duties, reduced income taxes, and related measures.:22 The
results of these codes were analyzed by a group from the University of
Quebec, which concluded that the codes promote foreign investment but
"fall very short of permitting sustainable development". The
observed negative correlation between natural resources and economic
development is known as the resource curse.
Mining transport in Devnya, Bulgaria.
Main article: Mine safety
Safety has long been a concern in the mining business, especially in
sub-surface mining. The Courrières mine disaster, Europe's worst
mining accident, involved the death of 1,099 miners in Northern France
on March 10, 1906. This disaster was surpassed only by the Benxihu
Colliery accident in
China on April 26, 1942, which killed 1,549
miners. While mining today is substantially safer than it was in
previous decades, mining accidents still occur. Government figures
indicate that 5,000 Chinese miners die in accidents each year, while
other reports have suggested a figure as high as 20,000. Mining
accidents continue worldwide, including accidents causing dozens of
fatalities at a time such as the 2007
Ulyanovskaya Mine disaster in
2009 Heilongjiang mine explosion
2009 Heilongjiang mine explosion in China, and the 2010
Upper Big Branch Mine disaster
Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in the United States.
Mining has been
identified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH) as a priority industry sector in the National
Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) to identify and provide
intervention strategies regarding occupational health and safety
There are numerous occupational hazards associated with mining,
including exposure to rockdust which can lead to diseases such as
silicosis, asbestosis, and pneumoconiosis. Gases in the mine can lead
to asphyxiation and could also be ignited.
Mining equipment can
generate considerable noise, putting workers at risk for hearing loss.
Cave-ins, rock falls, and exposure to excess heat are also known
Proper ventilation, hearing protection, and spraying equipment with
water are important safety practices in mines.
See also: Extremes on
Earth § Subterranean
Chuquicamata, Chile, site of the largest circumference and second
deepest open pit copper mine in the world.
As of 2008, the deepest mine in the world is
TauTona in Carletonville,
South Africa at 3.9 kilometres (2.4 mi), replacing the
neighboring Savuka Mine in the North West Province of
South Africa at
3,774 metres (12,382 ft).
East Rand Mine
East Rand Mine in Boksburg, South
Africa briefly held the record at 3,585 metres (11,762 ft), and
the first mine declared the deepest in the world was also
it was at 3,581 metres (11,749 ft).
The Moab Khutsong gold mine in
North West Province (South Africa)
North West Province (South Africa) has
the world's longest winding steel wire rope, able to lower workers to
3,054 metres (10,020 ft) in one uninterrupted four-minute
The deepest mine in Europe is the 16th shaft of the uranium mines in
Czech Republic at 1,838 metres (6,030 ft), second
is Bergwerk Saar in Saarland,
Germany at 1,750 metres (5,740 ft).
The deepest open-pit mine in the world is
Bingham Canyon Mine
Bingham Canyon Mine in
Bingham Canyon, Utah,
United States at over 1,200 metres
(3,900 ft). The largest and second deepest open-pit copper mine
in the world is
Chuquicamata in Chuquicamata,
Chile at 900 metres
(3,000 ft), 443,000 tons of copper and 20,000 tons of molybdenum
The deepest open-pit mine with respect to sea level is Tagebau Hambach
in Germany, where the base of the pit is 293 metres (961 ft)
below sea level.
The largest underground mine is Kiirunavaara Mine in Kiruna, Sweden.
With 450 kilometres (280 mi) of roads, 40 million tonnes of ore
produced yearly, and a depth of 1,270 metres (4,170 ft), it is
also one of the most modern underground mines. The deepest borehole in
the world is
Kola Superdeep Borehole
Kola Superdeep Borehole at 12,262 metres
(40,230 ft). This, however, is not a matter of mining but rather
related to scientific drilling.
Metal reserves and recycling
Landfill mining and Recycling
Conflict resource and List of critical mineral raw materials
During the 20th century, the variety of metals used in society grew
rapidly. Today, the development of major nations such as
India and advances in technologies are fueling an ever-greater demand.
The result is that metal mining activities are expanding and more and
more of the world’s metal stocks are above ground in use rather than
below ground as unused reserves. An example is the in-use stock of
copper. Between 1932 and 1999, copper in use in the US rose from 73
kilograms (161 lb) to 238 kilograms (525 lb) per person.
95% of the energy used to make aluminium from bauxite ore is saved by
using recycled material. However, levels of metals recycling are
generally low. In 2010, the International
Resource Panel, hosted by
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), published reports on
metal stocks that exist within society and their recycling
The report's authors observed that the metal stocks in society can
serve as huge mines above ground. However, they warned that the
recycling rates of some rare metals used in applications such as
mobile phones, battery packs for hybrid cars, and fuel cells are so
low that unless future end-of-life recycling rates are dramatically
stepped up these critical metals will become unavailable for use in
As recycling rates are low and so much metal has already been
extracted, some landfills now contain a higher concentrations of metal
than mines themselves. This is especially true of aluminium, used
in cans, and precious metals, found in discarded electronics.
Furthermore, waste after 15 years has still not broken down, so less
processing would be required when compared to mining ores. A study
undertaken by Cranfield University has found £360 million of metals
could be mined from just 4 landfill sites. There is also up to
20MJ/kg of energy in waste, potentially making the re-extraction more
profitable. However, although the first landfill mine opened in
Tel Aviv, Israel in 1953, little work has followed due to the
abundance of accessible ores.
Outline of mining
Environmental impact of mining
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
List of critical mineral raw materials
List of mining companies
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The Oil, gas and
Mining Sustainable Community Development Fund (2009)
Social Mine Closure Strategy, Mali (in )
Look up mining in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Commons has media related to Mining.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for
First chapter of Introductory
An introduction to geology and hard rock mining(archive)
"Mining". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
Room and pillar
Pollution / quality
Ambient standards (USA)
Clean Air Act (USA)
Fossil fuels (peak oil)
Non-timber forest products
Types / location
storage and recovery
Earth Overshoot Day
Renewable / Non-renewable
Agriculture and agronomy
Cave topics and lists by country
Glossary of caving and speleology
Caves by country
Types and formation
Lists of caves
World Heritage Sites:
Cave Art of Northern Spain
Cave Art of Iberian Mediterranean Basin
Cave Art of the Iberian Southern Tip
New South Wales
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