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: 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 for S-97-19 ; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
1997, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The Texas district is in Lemhi County on the east side of the Lemhi Range near the townsite of Gilmore (Figures 1 and 2). Most of the mines in the district are lead-silver replacement deposits in the Jefferson and Saturday Mountain Formations (Figure 3), although one mine produced from a gold-...
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 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 of P-17 ; Source: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
2006, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG)
This seventeenth 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 2005. Map locations of all major mines are shown and an overview of mineral production and its effect on Nevada's...
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 for S-05-3; Source: Idaho Geological Survey
2005, Idaho Geological Survey (IGS)
The area around Colorado and Star Gulches (Figure 1) is underlain by the Devonian Milligen Formation, the Dollarhide and Wood River formations of Pennsylvanian and Permian age, and by intrusive granitic rocks of Cretaceous age (Figure 2). Most of these mines were discovered before 1900 (Lindgren,...
Cover of GF15; Source: Ohio Geological Survey
2014, Ohio Geological Survey (OGS)
Coal has been mined in Ohio since 1800. Mining technology has evolved from pick and shovel to the highly automated, computer-controlled equipment used today. There are two basic types of coal mines: surface mines and underground mines. Since 1800, approximately 3.9 billion tons of coal have been...
Cover of P-24 ; Source: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
2013, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG)
This twenty-fourth 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 2012. Map locations of all major mines are shown and an overview of mineral production and its effect on Nevada's...
Cover of sir2016-5173; Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey
2017, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The Southeast Missouri Barite District and the Valles Mines are located in Washington, Jefferson, and St. Francois Counties, Missouri, where barite and lead ore are present together in surficial and near-surface deposits. Lead mining in the area began in the early 1700’s and extended into the early...
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...