Minerals are naturally occurring components of the earth, and need to be extracted from the ground before being used. Over 90% of today’s fast-moving consumer goods depend upon the minerals industry for their production, and three-quarters of the world’s population relies on it for their livelihood. Over 800 minerals are found in abundance, occurring naturally on our planet. But, how are minerals extracted, really?
The main methods of extracting minerals from the ground are:
- Underground Mining: Underground mining is used to extract minerals from deep within the earth. Coal mines and diamond mines are two examples. Underground mining is performed using a variety of drill machines, explosives, and heavy machinery. This is a perilous job because it is difficult to predict exactly what you will find underground. Explosives are used to blast away layers of rock. The ore is collected and transported to the surface, and is then processed. In most cases, this is done by crushing and concentrating it, using chemicals.
- Surface (Open Pit) Mining: Surface mining is the method of extracting minerals from the earth by removing layers of earth from the surface down to the mineral deposit. Mining companies often split up the area into several ‘cells’, which are mined using heavy machinery. This type of mining has many environmental costs, but is extremely cost-efficient and is used widely throughout the world.
- Placer Mining: Placer mining is extracting minerals from mineral deposits directly from a river or in beach sands. Miners use a variety of heavy machinery to dig up minerals, which are then collected and put through a processing machine to gather the desired minerals. This is often a dangerous, but cost-effective way of obtaining minerals.
The location and shape of the deposit, the strength of the rock, ore grade, cost of extraction, and current market price of the commodity are some of the factors that must be considered when choosing a mining method.
How Mineral Extraction Affects the Environment
Minerals are a fundamental part of many of the items we consume and use in our daily lives. But, extracting minerals has a devastating impact on the environment.
Fortunately, there is now comprehensive mineral planning at all levels of government, which ensures that the recycling, reuse, and conservation of energy and mineral resources are used to achieve clean water and air and a healthy environment.
Industrial mining methods have been heavily criticized for their apparent adverse effects on the environment. This includes the pollution of water systems, deforestation, and the displacement of native fauna and flora. However, companies are now being forced to put extremely strict environmental protection measures in place.
Many mining companies have had to retrofit their equipment and develop new technology to reduce the potential environmental impact of their mining practices.
When the mining industry talks about its sustainability responsibilities, the focus is on how the mining industry manages the mining process’s environmental, social, and economic aspects. The mining industry, just like all other business sectors, aims to be sustainable in its operations. This is why they are considering the economic and social impacts of their business.
Minerals make up the backbone of our modern society. While the extraction process may be destructive, the impact of their extraction on the environment can be minimized.
Group 11 Technologies is committed to developing and applying environmental technology for mining. We use a combination of non-invasive extraction technology and environmentally-friendly solutions to recover minerals. Contact us!