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

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...

GOLI Online Courses

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...

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...

Research Database Publications

Cover of P-13 ; Source: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
2002, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG)
This thirteenth issue of an annual series of reports on the major mines and mills in Nevada lists the names and addresses of operators, numbers of employees, and annual production in 2001. Map locations of all major mines are shown and an overview of mineral production and its effect on Nevada's...
Cover for S-00-2; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2000, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Pine Creek area is in the Yreka mining district in western Shoshone County, Idaho (Figure 1). The mining region extending from Pine Creek eastward to the Idaho-Montana state line is informally called the Coeur d'Alene mining district, an area that covers parts of ten formal mining districts.
Cover of PP1767; Source: USGS
2009, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The Retsof salt mine in upstate New York was flooded from 1994 to 1996 after two roof collapses created rubble chimneys in overlying bedrock that intersected a confined aquifer in glacial sediments. The mine now contains about 60 billion liters of saturated halite brine that is slowly being...
Cover of CR15A; Source: Arizona Geological Survey
2015, Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS)
The mining practice that uses solutions to extract a desired commodity from an ore deposit where it stands without also extracting the rock is known as solution mining. There are essentially two types of solution mining: 1) in-situ and 2) in-place. In-place solution mining requires permeability...
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2014, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
The purpose of this briefing is to provide a general overview about the use of cyanide and its application to recover gold from ore. While the use of cyanide is essential to the modern gold mining industry, SME acknowledges the public’s concern regarding the use of this reagent and through this...
Cover for S-05-1; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2005, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
There are several significant physical hazards in the Bullion Gulch area, as summarized in Table 1. The danger from open shafts and adits is compounded by the easy access of the area to local residents and unknowing tourists. During the summer of 1997, a new gravel road was built up Bullion Gulch...
Cover for S-00-5; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2000, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Idaho Continental Mine is on the crest of the Selkirk Range in northwestern Boundary County about 20 miles west-southwest from Porthill, Idaho. During this period when the mine was active, access was along the 25-mile-long Boundary Creek road (which runs partially through Canada) from Porthill...
Cover of S-15-2; Sourrce: Idaho Geological Survey
2015, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
In historical mining terms, 2013 may go down as the end of the global mineral commodity “supercycle.” For mining and mineral exploration in Idaho, this meant significantly less activity in exploration for metallic resources and struggles for existing mines as plummeting metal prices cut revenues....
Cover image of position statement; Image credit: SME
2016, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME)
The minerals industry appreciates that whereas it mines and processes minerals to maintain and advance our standard of living, it must do so in a manner that protects the Earth and its environs so that the generations to come are not adversely impacted and can enjoy its bounties.
Cover for S-10-2; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2010, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
There were twenty-one mining sites (Table 2.1.1-1) examined in the Flint Creek and South Mountain areas. Of these, four have the potential for an environmental impact on adjacent waterways. Two of these have water discharges that exceed one or more water quality standards, one has mill tailings...