Mining

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

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, 2017On 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, 2017On 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....
#MapOfTheDay! Check out this interactive map of Iowa coal mines from @iowadnr  http://bit.ly/23DKXga
(2016-11-07)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared an interactive map of coal mines in Iowa from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (@IowaDNR), which you can find at http://bit.ly/23DKXga. For information about coal mining, check out our Coal Basics.
#MapOfTheDay! Check out this interactive map of abandoned #mines in Virginia from @DMMEVA
(2016-11-03)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared an interactive map of abandoned mines in Virginia from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (@DMMEVA), which you can find at http://bit.ly/1HAbIr9. For information about mining, check out our Mining Basics.

Case Studies & Factsheets

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Campbell County case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) 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 Campbell County, Wyoming can be found here. The...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Boone, Logan and Mingo counties case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) 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 Virginia's Boone, Logan, and Mingo counties...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Pima County case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) 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 County, Arizona can be found here. The...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Greenlee County case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) 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 Greenlee County, Arizona can be found here. The...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Elko and Eureka counties case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) 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's Elko and Eureka counties can be found...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Humboldt and Lander counties case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) 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's Humboldt and Lander counties can be found...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the St. Louis County case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) 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. Louis County, Minnesota can be found here. The...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Marquette County case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) 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 Marquette County, Michigan can be found here. The...

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...

Research Database Publications

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 of R-11; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1991, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
Early settlement of the Idaho Territory (established in 1863) was greatly influenced by the influx of prospectors and miners searching largely for gold and silver in its rugged 'mountainous regions. Many of these miners were first involved in the great California gold rush of 1848, and in its...
Cover of FS2015-3032; Source: USGS
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
In response to recent diplomatic developments between Cuba and the United States, the National Minerals Information Center compiled available information on the mineral industries of Cuba. This fact sheet highlights a new map and table that identify mines, mineral processing facilities, and...
Cover of GF16; Source: Ohio Geological Survey
2015, Ohio Geological Survey (OGS)
Coal is a black or dark brown, combustible sedimentary rock. It contains greater than 70% carbon-rich material by volume. Since the 1880s, coal has been burned to produce electricity, and today, the electric utility industry is the largest consumer of coal in the nation. The coal used in Ohio for...
Cover for S-03-9; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2003, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
Of the forty-five mines in the St. Joe River basin discussed in this volume, thirteen have the potential to have an environmental impact on or near USFS lands. Five of these have waste dumps in active waterways, three sites have water discharges that exceed one or more water quality standards, and...
Cover for S-99-4 ; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1999, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Phi Kappa Mine is in the Alto mining district on the east side of Phi Kappa Creek in Custer County at an elevation of about 8,000 feet (Figures 1 and 2). Phi Kappa Cree is a tributary to Summit Creek, which is a tributary to the North Fork of the Big Lost River.
Cover for S-03-16; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2003, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
There were fifty mining properties (Table 2.1-1) examined in the Palouse Ranger District. Of these mines, thirteen have the potential to have an environmental impact on or near USFS lands. Six of these properties have water discharges that exceed one or more water quality standards, two properties...
Cover for S-03-13; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2003, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
There were fifty-four mining properties (Table 2.1.1-1) examined in the Sandpoint Ranger District. Of these mines, nineteen have the potential to have an environmental impact on or near USFS lands. Nine of these properties have water discharges that exceed one or more water quality standards, three...
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2014, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
Workforce availability has become a significant problem for the domestic mining industry. Without an adequate workforce, the basic building blocks of the economy - energy and minerals - cannot be domestically produced. The new global emerging middle class will continue to create competition for...
Cover for S-97-21 ; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1997, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Yellowjacket Mine is in the Yellowjacket mining district in southwestern Lemhi County (Figure 1). The mine is near the top of Yellowjacket Hill at an elevation of about 7,200 feet (Figure 2).