Introduction to Mining
Mining literally means extraction .Our Mother Earth has lots of resources deep within her and mining is the method of extracting all these valuable resources from the earth through different means. There are different methods to extract these resources which are found in different forms beneath the earth's surface.It goes without saying that it is the most important achievements of mankind, the first being agriculture.
The modern civilization is indebted to the mining industry for extracting the valuable resources from the depths of the earth's surface and it can be mentioned that all the important gadgets used by the modern civilization is supplied by elements extracted through mining.Its contribution to mankind is enormous. The natural mineral substances like solid, liquid and gas were extracted from the earth and used by mankind for various purposes.When we go back to history, it is seen that this process of extraction is closely associated with all ages like Stone Age, Iron Age, steel age, etc. Many important achievements in human history were achieved with the minerals extracted thereby providing a major incentive. By the extraction of these minerals, countries started to accumulate wealth and they were considered as the greatest civilization of the world and those countries that did not extract these minerals were considered to be a country suffering from a lower standard of living. The advanced countries carried forward the extraction of nature's wealth and expanded their economic activities beyond their borders. The excavation of minerals led to the expansion of industrial growth and discovery of different islands in search of minerals.
The earlier method of mining was done by human beings who dug the earth's surface deep into the earth to form an underground passage and excavate the mineral resources. They used to carry the materials manually to reach the surface. Later mechanical methods were used to bring the materials and the amount of extraction also increased. Sometimes bores were used to extract the minerals mainly in liquid form. The fields of this borehole are called mines as the minerals are mined without allowing anyone to enter into the realms of the earth. It is not a process which is completed in itself. It is not an entity in itself. Many other factors are involved in mining before the products are marketed. In isolation, it has no meaning at all. The various processes that are involved in it are geographical investigations, economic analysis, mineral processing and then marketing. After the extraction of the fuel from the earth it has to be cleaned and then it has to be refined, fabricated and also concentrated before it is sent to the market. All these works are allotted to the workers in the field of metallurgy, and sometimes it is also taken by the engineers.
Since prehistoric times this process of extraction was done only by man. The safety of the worker was a great concern. It also created a lot negative impact on the environment both during and after the process. But thanks to the modern technology, various methods are implemented to determine the safety of the mines.
Lion Cave in Swaziland is the oldest mine as far as the department of archaeology is concerned. The Egyptians used the bright green stone called the malachite stones for ornamentation purposes. It was mined during the ancient times. The gold mines of Nubia are one of the largest in Ancient Egypt. The Greeks and the Romans were also involved in this process of extracting minerals. The medieval history tells us about how the Europeans, specifically concentrated on the extraction of copper and iron. Various mines of gold, silver, copper and iron was found and extracted by the Philippines around 1000 .B.C. Varieties of ornaments were made and the outstanding ones among them are necklaces, belts, armlets, rings etc.
This process of extraction of ores and minerals from under the earth and then bringing to the land to its natural state involves a lot of processes. When the ore is discovered from the site the location and value of the ore is first explored. Then the size of the mineral and the grade to which it can be ranked is studied.
Before the commencement of excavation a feasibility study is done to understand the economic viability, the risks involved in technical and financial aspects which include the usefulness of the project. At this point a decision has to be made by the company, whether to continue with the project. The company has to take a decision before starting the extraction process depending on the quality and type of mineral available in the area and the profit generated through this process. The excavation of highly valuable minerals results in generation of a large quantity of waste materials which has also to be taken into consideration before the commencement of the project and definite ways have to found remove such waste. This process is a major cost to the operator and before the operations proceeded a detailed categorization of the waste has to be done.
When the company identifies and decides to begin the process of extraction of the mineral wealth the equipments and processing plants are built around the site and after a period of time when the minerals are completely extracted the reclamation process is started to maintain the ecosystem. After the extraction of the mineral comes the method of processing. The science of metallurgy is involved in this process and the valuable metals are extracted through mechanical or chemical means. The mineral processing involves crushing, grinding and washing that will help in the separation of valuable from the waste material. Environment plays a major role in this process of extraction. The issues involved due to extraction are erosion and contamination of soil and water. The health of the local population will be affected due to contamination and certain rules and regulations have to be followed to avoid damage to the environment and ecosystem.
The environmental regulations have to be followed during the mining process and adequate care has to be taken to protect the natural resources and the ecosystem of the area. The local population and the flora and fauna have to be taken care while the mining process is undertaken. However, the mining of natural resources makes a country strong, both economically and financially.