What is Mining?

These large domes of Project Eden in Cornwall, UK are nestled on a crater that was once a clay mine.

In many of the birthday parties I attended, children would play a game where they would try to blow a plate or bowl of flour as fast as they could to completely reveal the coin buried below. At the end of the game, everyone watching would laugh because the contestants’ faces would be covered with flour.

Mining is like that game. It is the process of accessing and getting valuable material that is buried in the earth. It involves removing the soil and rocks covering the valuable material or digging tunnels underground to get to the valuable material. This valuable material can be oil, coal, soil that contains iron, or rocks that contain gold and copper. The materials recovered from mining are then processed and combined with other materials to manufacture products that we use every day like electronic gadgets, appliances, utensils, jewelry, and even toothpaste, to name a few.

You can find other definitions of mining from mining engineering books. Howard Hartman, author of Introductory Mining Engineering, defined mining as “…the extraction of any naturally occurring mineral substances – solid, liquid, and gas – from the earth or other heavenly bodies for utilitarian purposes.”[1] This definition of mining considers the possibility of mining asteroids – which we might be able to do soon. According to another book, the SME Mining Engineering Handbook 2nd Edition, “The essence of mining in extracting minerals from the earth is to drive (construct) an excavation or an opening to serve as a means of entry from the existing surface to the mineral deposit.”[2]

The local and national economy benefits from an operating mine. An operating mine spurs the local economy by creating direct and indirect jobs for the locals and increasing demand for local products and services.[3] The mining company also pays different kinds of taxes to the local and national government.

A mining project does not stop after all the valuable materials are removed. At the end of mining operations, plants and trees will be planted in the mine site, and the area will be prepared for a new and suistainable purpose. Many closed mines around the world have been successfully converted to forests or wildlife habitats [4], museums or educational centers [5], visitor attractions [6], scientific centers [7], recreational areas [8], parks [9], fish farms [10], and agricultural farms.[11]

Whenever someone asks you about mining, you can use the analogy of blowing flour to reveal the hidden coin. But mining does not stop there, because after mining, plants and trees must be planted in the mine site, which will be repurposed into a forest, museum, scientific center, park, farm, and many more.

  1. Hartman H. Introductory Mining Engineering. New York: Wiley; 1987.
  2. Hartman H. SME Mining Engineering Handbook. Littleton, CO: Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration; 1992.
  3. Östensson O. The employment effect of mine employees’ local expenditure. Mineral Economics. 2014;27(2-3):135-142. doi:10.1007/s13563-014-0056-6.
  4. Philex Mining Pursues Anr In Bulawan Refo Program | Newsroom | Philexmining. Philexminingcomph. 2014. Available at: http://www.philexmining.com.ph/newsroom/press-release/philex-mining-pursues-anr-in-bulawan-refo-program. Accessed March 9, 2016.
  5. Award Winning National Historic Site | Britannia Mine Museum. Britanniaminemuseumca. 2016. Available at: http://www.britanniaminemuseum.ca. Accessed March 9, 2016.
  6. Top eco visitor attraction – rainforest, gardens & educational charity – Eden Project Cornwall UK. Edenprojectcom. 2016. Available at: http://www.edenproject.com. Accessed March 9, 2016.
  7. The SNO Homepage. Snophyqueensuca. 2016. Available at: http://www.sno.phy.queensu.ca. Accessed March 9, 2016.
  8. Gotland Ring | Race circuit & race track for motor events & corporate events. Gotlandringcom. 2016. Available at: http://www.gotlandring.com/index.php. Accessed March 9, 2016.
  9. Gardens. The Butchart Gardens. 2016. Available at: http://www.butchartgardens.com/gardens. Accessed March 9, 2016.
  10. AngloGold Ashanti commissions aquaculture project. The Fish Site. 2016. Available at: http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/4329/anglogold-ashanti-commissions-aquaculture-project/. Accessed March 9, 2016.
  11. Delaurentis J. Mushroom-mining project set for growth. Engineering News. 2016. Available at: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/mushroommining-project-set-for-growth-2002-11-08. Accessed March 9, 2016.

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