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

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.
Screenshot of interactive map of mines in Colorado. Image Credit: Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety
(2016-10-18)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared an interactive map of mines in Colorado from the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, which you can find at http://bit.ly/2aDJC26. For more information on mining, check out our Mining Basics.
Screenshot of Mines of Ohio interactive map from the Ohio DNR. Image Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources
(2016-10-07)
#MapOfTheDay! Today the Critical Issues Program (@AGI_GeoIssues) shared Mines of Ohio, an interactive map of geothermal resources in the U.S. from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (@ohiodnr), which you can find at http://bit.ly/2dS8Qk5. For more information on past and present mining and...

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
2015, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
The Nation runs on energy. It is essential for the economic growth and national security of the United States that the Nation have an adequate, sustainable, environmentally acceptable and economically viable balanced supply of energy sources, (e.g. coal, petroleum, nuclear, natural gas, solar, wind...
Cover for S-97-18 ; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1997, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Sunbeam Mine is in the Yankee Fork mining district in Custer County (Figure 1). It is located on Bismark Mountain on the south side of Jordan Creek, four miles above the creek's confluence with the Yankee Fork and 7 miles west of Custer (Figure 2). The orginal mill and the protal of the lowest...
Cover of OFR-14-3; Source: Kansas Geological Survey
2014, Kansas Geological Survey (KGS)
The Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) was contacted by Mr. Dean F. Kruse of the Calvert Corporation in October of 2010 about a possible role for the KGS in helping address exploration issues associated with the Calvert volcanic ash mine located in Norton County, Kansas. On February 23, 2011, KGS...
Cover of c-118; Source: Utah Geological Survey
2014, Utah Geological Survey (UGS)
During 2013, Utah extractive resource industries produced energy and mineral commodities with an estimated gross value of $9.5 billion. On an inflation-adjusted basis, this is a $1 billion (12%) increase from 2012, and $1.2 billion (11%) less than the 2008 record high of $10.7 billion. Total energy...
Cover for S-03-20; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2003, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
There were forty-three mining properties (Table 2.1-1) examined in the Dixie area. Of these properties, ten have the potential to have an environmental impact on or near USFS lands. Seven have water discharges that exceed one or more water quality standards, one has both water quality concerns and...
Cover of C-2; Source: Mississippi Geological Survey
1988, Mississippi Geological Survey (MGS)
This report contains information on the major mineral producers in Mississippi and includes awards for Operator of the Year, Reclamation Project of the Year, and Honorable Mentions for Surface Mining Reclamation.
Cover for S-00-14; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2000, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Mineral district, also known as the Washington district, is located in western Washington County about 4 miles east of the Snake River. Most of the mines are along Dennett Creek between elevations of3,000 to 5,000 feet (Figure 1). Accessibility has always been a major problem for these mines....
Cover for S-00-11; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2000, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Golden Anchor Mine is in the Marshall Lake mining district in southern Idaho County (Figure 1). The area is about 45 miles by road from McCall and 13 miles north of Burgdorf. The mine is in a schist, quartzite, and gneiss roof pendant in the Idaho batholith (May,1984). Five veins have been...
Cover for S-10-4; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2010, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Viola Mine is on the west-facing slope of the Beaverhead Mountains at an elevation of about 8,700 feet (Figures 1 and 2). It is in the Nicholia mining district, an area that is sometimes included in the Birch Creek mining district. The mine is 2 miles east-northeast of the townsite of Nicholia...
Cover image for TP-8 ; Source: Iowa Geological Survey
1989, Iowa Geological Survey (IGS)
Des Moines, Iowa, the state's capital city, is situated within a portion of the state underlain by abundant coal resources. Early in the city's history, local deposits of coal were a readily available source of fuel for homes, industries, and railroads. Eventually, an underground mining industry...