Mining

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Mining is essential to meet rising global demand for minerals. Geoscientists locate mineral resources and figure out how to extract them economically while minimizing health and environmental impacts. The method of mining, as well as potential environmental impacts, depends on the type of resource being mined.

Basics

Mine trucks moving material from the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mines in Colorado. Image Credit USGS/Photo by Yolanda Fong-Sam

The mining process is used to separate rock or ore from surrounding rock. There are four main mining methods: underground, open surface (pit), placer, and in-situ mining. The method used depends on the type of mineral resource that is mined, its location beneath the surface, and whether the resource is worth enough money to justify extracting it. The potential environmental impacts of mining depend on the resource being mined, how it is mined, and local factors like climate. In the United States, these impacts are now closely regulated, and mine areas are often reclaimed for another purpose after mining is over.   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute

Latest News

Excavator mining
(2018-04-03)
March 15, 2018 On March 15, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing entitled “Abandoned Hardrock Mines and the Role of Non-Governmental Entities” to discuss the laws and procedures governing the reclamation of hardrock mines in the U.S. and highlight areas where reform...
Bingham Copper Mine
(2018-04-03)
March 7, 2018 On March 7, the full House Committee on Natural Resources marked up the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act (H.R.520), following a hearing to consider the bill last month. The Act, introduced by Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV-2) on January 13, aims to support...
Bingham Copper Mine
(2018-01-04)
December 21, 2017 On Wednesday, December 20, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals. The order requires the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Defense, and Energy to submit a report that includes a strategy to...
Technology background
(2018-01-04)
December 12, 2017 The electronics and defense industries, among other key industries in the United States, rely upon the supply and availability of minerals – many of which are imported to the U.S. from other countries. Not only are these elements integral to the production of high-end electronics...
Excavator mining
(2017-08-16)
July 20, 2017 On July 20, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing to discuss the future of hardrock mining in the United States. Streamlining the permitting process, royalties reform, and reclamation concerns were among the topics discussed...
Bingham Copper Mine
(2017-07-12)
June 7, 2017 On June 7, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing about the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Program. The AML Program is set to expire in 2021. The hearing...
U.S. Capitol
(2017-04-10)
March 28, 2017 Industry and agency experts examined the United States’ increasing dependence on foreign sources of minerals on March 28. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to explore opportunities to rebuild and improve the supply of critical minerals in the United...
Excavator mining
(2017-04-10)
March 7, 2017 Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA-50) introduced the "Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security (METALS) Act" (H.R.1407) to ensure the U.S. has access to a sustainable and secure supply of materials to safeguard our national security on March 7. H.R.1407 would use one...
Kirby Bean, BLM Certified Mineral Examiner showing Sarah Hill the boundaries of a mining claim
(2017-02-01)
After several rounds of applications and interviews, Sarah Hill landed her GeoCorps position. Instead of a seemingly more exotic position in a National Park, Sarah opted for job based out of D.C., and found it was filled with as much adventure as she had hoped for! Read about her experiences...
Bingham Copper Mine
(2016-11-30)
November 21, 2016 Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, announced a plan to block mining development outside of Yellowstone National Park. Under this plan, 30,000 acres of public land north of Yellowstone is subject to a two-year restriction on mining claims while a permanent ban is considered....

Case Studies & Factsheets

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Campbell County case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on coal mining in...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Boone, Logan and Mingo counties case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on coal mining in West...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Pima County case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on copper mining in Pima...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Greenlee County case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on copper mining in...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Elko and Eureka counties case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on gold mining in Nevada'...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Humboldt and Lander counties case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on gold mining in Nevada'...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the St. Louis County case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on iron mining in St....

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Marquette County case study highlighted
U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Information and Data Management has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on iron mining in...

Sunset skyline of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, with the Inco Superstack seen across Ramsey Lake. Licensed under Creative Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons User P199

The Sudbury region of Ontario is rich in metallic ores. Underground mining operations at the 15 active mines of Inco Ltd. and Falconbridge Ltd. in Sudbury currently produce 51,000 tons of ore per day [note: these figures are from the late 1990s], and five other mines within 500 km of Sudbury...

GOLI Online Courses

GOLI Course: Tracking the Supply of Critical Materials; Image courtesy of Nedal Nassar.
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

No country in the world produces all of the mineral resources necessary for modern society. International trade plays a critical role in providing these raw materials, forming a global network of production, export, import, and use. This network must continuously adapt to national and...

GOLI Course: Best Practices in Mineral Resource Estimation & Reporting. Image courtesy of Abani Samal
Course Type: GOLI Online Course

Construction of a computerized model to estimate mineral resources is a common practice in mineral exploration projects and mining operations. Many times a technical report is done as per international reporting standards such as NI-43-101 or JORC to meet the requirement of certain stock...

Research Database Publications

Cover for GeoNote 34 ; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1994, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
List of companies with active mining operations in metals and phosphate in Idaho between 1994 and 1995.
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2011, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
Employee safety and health is of paramount importance for SME and its members. Many SME members work daily in our Nation’s mines or have a direct impact on others that work in the mines. SME supports the mission and purpose of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which is to...
Cover for S-00-9; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2000, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Idaho Almaden Mine is in western Washington County, 11 miles west of Weiser. It is located on Nutmeg Mountain at an elevation of 3,500 feet (Figure 1).
Cover for GeoNote 11 ; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1987, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
Fact sheet presenting data on countries with over 10 million ounces of silver production annually, silver production by domestic and foreign mines, major silver-producing states, year end stocks, and U.S. refinery production.
Cover of B2210E; Source: USGS
2004, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Northern Nevada is one of the world’s foremost regions of gold production. The Humboldt River Basin (HRB) covers 43,500 km2 in northern Nevada (Crompton, 1995), and it is home to approximately 18 active gold and silver mines (Driesner and Coyner, 2001) among at least 55 significant metallic mineral...
Cover for S-10-1; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2010, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The War Eagle Mine consists of a series of pits, one or possibly two caved shafts with large piles of waste rock, and three open adits, one of which has associated open stopes (Figure 3.19-2). Only one shaft is reported at the War Eagle, but three large pits are near the piles of waste rock. The...
Cover for S-97-15 ; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1997, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Pope-Shenon Mine is in the Eureka mining district in Lemhi County near the north end of the Lemhi Range about 8 miles southwest of Salmon (Figures 1 and 2). This area is in the Idaho copper-cobalt belt.
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2011, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
The United States is a mineral-rich nation. The U.S. has reserves of more commodity minerals and metals (78) than any other country. The current value of select mineral resources in the U.S. is estimated at $6.2 trillion*. The U.S. is a significant consumer of minerals, both domestically produced...
Cover for S-03-22; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2003, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
There were 114 mining properties (Table 2. 1-1) examined in the Elk City and surrounding areas. Of these properties, forty-three have the potential to have an environmental impact on or near USFS lands. Twenty-two have water discharges that exceed one or more water quality standards, one has waste...
Cover for S-14-4; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2014, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
This report was prepared as part of a project to identify, characterize, and describe abandoned or inactive mines (AIMs) with significant environmental or physical hazards on lands administered by Region IV of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Seven National Forests (Boise, Caribou, Challis, Payette...