What is Mining?
Although we often think only of gold, copper, zinc or coal mines, the industry also includes oil wells and natural gas extraction. Processing rail and shipping facilities are also major parts of the industry.
The deposits may be located deep below the earth`s surface where underground mine shafts and tunnels must be constructed to recover the minerals. There are also above ground mines such as open pit mines and mountaintop mine operations.
Oil wells and natural gas fields may be located on or offshore. Natural gas is typically found deeper in the earth than oil. Both oil and gas are extracted by drilling.
Minerals may be located in ore, a type of rock that contains minerals. Ore may contain a variety of different minerals. For example, copper, silver and gold may be present in the same ore base. The ore is typically removed and then refined to get at the different minerals.
Minerals may also be found in veins. Veins are distinct sheet-like bodies of crystalised minerals within a rock deposit. In the past, most mines operated only where there were large veins, sometimes called lodes.
Modern technology has made it possible for mines to remove large amounts of minerals even after the largest veins are depleted. It is for this reason that some older mines have been reopened over the last several years. It may take a large investment of money to gain access to deeper deposits but the profits made make the investment worthwhile.
What is Mining Engineering?
Engineers in the industry are involved in deposit discovery where they work with geologists. They are also involved in determining the most efficient way to remove the minerals. In recent years, the engineers have become more interested in removal methods that pose the least threat to the surrounding environment.
What is Mining Automation?
Automation in the industry is a part of the technological advancements that have been ongoing for many years. Automation has reduced the amount of manual labor needed to remove minerals from modern mines and has also made the industry safer. The term refers to the use of different types of machinery and robotics in the industry. Automation also reduces costs and increases production capacities.
What is Mining Employment like?
People employed by the mines include engineers, geologists, machinery operators, drivers, helpers, apprentices and unskilled laborers. The industry is a large employer and individual operations are often hiring themselves, or through mining contractors.