Mining Basics

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Mine trucks moving material from the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mines in Colorado. Image Credit USGS/Photo by Yolanda Fong-Sam
Mine trucks moving material from the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mines in Colorado. Image Credit USGS/Photo by Yolanda Fong-Sam
  • Mine trucks moving material from the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mines in Colorado. Image Credit USGS/Photo by Yolanda Fong-Sam
  • Jim Herron of BLM inside dinero tunnel at 2000 feet during inventory and analysis.

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.

Why does mining matter?

Mining is essential to provide the 48,000 lbs of mineral resources per person per year that we use in the United States.[1] Mineral resources are integral to the roads, vehicles, buildings, technologies, and personal products we rely on every day. Mining also produces a large proportion of the fuels that power and transport our society.

How does geoscience inform decisions about mining?

Geoscientists determine how to mine mineral resources economically, help to protect water and minimize environmental damages around the mine, and help reclaim disturbed land after mining.

References

1How many pounds of minerals are needed for each person in the U.S. per year?, AGI Critical Issues Program, www.americangeosciences.org/critical-issues/faq/how-many-pounds-minerals-are-required-average-person-year

Learn More

Introductory Resources

  • Metal Mining and the Environment (Booklet), American Geosciences Institute
    Provides basic information about the mining cycle, from exploration for economic mineral deposits to mine closure. The booklet discusses the environmental aspects of metal mining and illustrates the ways science and technology assist in preventing or reducing environmental impacts.

Resources for Educators

Frequently Asked Questions

American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
American Geosciences Institute
2017-05-18