| Written by Mark Buzinkay
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Surface mining is best suited to extracting minerals near the earth's surface. It is also usually a more cost-effective mining method compared to underground mining. Common minerals extracted using surface mining are some of the most mined, including coal, iron and bauxite.
Advantages of an open-pit mine include:
The open-pit mining cycle follows a simple schema: Drill, blast, load, haul and dump.
Open-pit mines present advantages and disadvantages when compared to underground mining. Amongst the benefits are that it is cheaper, can regain more of the resource (usually up to 100% within the mining excavation), is safer and can use larger-scale mining equipment leading to higher production rates.
Underground mining is more costly because it's more capital-intensive. Coal companies, for example, have to drill more and use more expensive and complicated machines.
As subsurface mining extracts ore from below the surface of the earth, it has to be safe, economical and with as little waste as possible. The entry from the surface to an underground mine may be through a horizontal or vertical tunnel, known as an adit, shaft or decline.
Typical underground mining methods include room and pillar, narrow vein stoping and large-scale mechanised mining.
Room and pillar mining is a mining style where tunnels are driven in a chessboard pattern with tremendous square pillars between them, gradually cutting away as the work proceeds. Mining coal uses this mining style.
Narrow vein stoping is conducted in an underground excavation along geological 'veins': these distinct sheet-like bodies of crystallised minerals within a rock are mined and removed. To support underground mine stoping, miners must also make excavations for engine rooms and pump chambers or for access purposes such as shafts. Mining platinum uses this mining style.
Large-scale mechanised mining methods miners use include:
Subsurface mining advantages exist when:
Underwater mining is necessary when the mineral you've identified lies within an aquatic environment like the sea floor. This situation requires a responsible method that thoughtfully considers the local ecosystem.
Miners conduct underwater mining with purpose-designed ships operating either a remotely run underwater vehicle or drill technology at depths of 100-140 metres below sea level. The vessel is refuelled at sea, and freshwater is produced onboard for continuous production.
Significant factors affecting the exploitation of minerals are as follows: Richness or grade of the ore, size of the deposit, method of mining, accessibility, transportation facilities, stage of industrial development and technology.
(1) Richness of the ore
The quantity of minerals defines in large measure their commercial exploitation. Ores differ in their metal content. Generally, the higher-grade ores are more economical to operate, not only because they deliver a large amount of metal but also because their higher metal content makes them more manageable and cheaper to smelt. Minerals of high value, such as gold, diamonds, copper, and uranium, can often be excavated at a very high cost because they are in great need and fetch high prices.
(2) Mining method
The process of mining depends on the mode of occurrence of the ores. The open-pit mining is the cheapest, while shaft mines are costly. The cost of mining also relies on the scale of operations. If the mining has been done on a large scale, the capital and running costs can be offset.
The accessibility of a region where the respective mineral deposit occurs is significant. The terrain and climate determine accessibility which helps or hampers the mining operations.
(4) Size of deposit
The deposit size is vital because mining requires a large quantity of pricey equipment. Providing such equipment to work a deposit that will run out in some months will not be worthwhile. Small-scale working is only prosperous for precious minerals. Sometimes, small deposits may be worked out profitably when low transport costs.
(5) Stage of industrial development
A country's industrialisation stage is the general index of the exploitation of its mineral wealth. Mineral exploitation is cumulative in the industrial cycle. China, India and Brazil's vast mineral resources almost remained neglected until they marched on the path of industrial development.
(6) Transportation facilities
For thriving mining, transportation facilities are essential. Not only for the mining, but it is also necessary for mined minerals to be transported to the sites of their use. Ores are relatively bulky and heavy. They are thus costly to transport, and the shorter the distance to be covered, the better. The deposits having a coastal location or located near industrial sites have an advantage over that far inland.
Technological shifts in mining methods and manufacturing processes may change once worthless deposits into esteemed commercial ores. The technique of geological survey has now been changed.
With the help of remote sensing techniques, one can estimate a region's mineral resource reserves. However, other technological changes have altered the pattern of exploitation of mineral resources.
Among other factors, cheap labour supply, competition from different sources, and economic system and tariff policies are notable.
(1) Bolster mine planning
To improve productivity, companies can:
(2) Improve efficiencies through technology
Productivity is about maximising throughput per unit of time, quality, and cost (learn more about RFID in mining). Mining companies may wish to use better technology to achieve these goals:
(3) Get serious about workforce planning
To maximise crew productivity, corporations must adequately define their workforce assumptions and improve management across the talent lifecycle.
(4) Invest in analytics
It is impossible to lower the costs of safety, maintenance and other cost-intensive programs on a sustainable basis simply by studying component costs. However, using analytics, companies can:
(5) Improve budget and risk management
Independent project analysis shows that the majority of mega-projects fail to deliver targeted value. To improve project results, mining organisations can:
(6) Pursue operational excellence
To reduce costs in a sustainable way, mining organisations can:
(7) Rationalise the supply chain
To diminish costs, businesses frequently ask suppliers for steep—and often unsustainable—cost concessions. However, companies can do the following:
Mining operations demand long-term and substantial investments, and turning a mine into a profitable business is a challenging, ongoing project. Strategic and operational answers will decide if success is feasible. Industry experts often claim that mining safety and productivity correlate and influence each other. For further reading, learn about underground safety and lone worker's safety.
So, how can we achieve mining targets in a safe, timely and cost-effectively? If we want to exploit the full potential of our mining investment, we should investigate the idea of mine risk management.
One of the key factors affecting mine productivity is the ore grade. The higher the ore grade, the more valuable it is and the easier it is to extract. However, high-grade ore deposits are often small in size, making them difficult to mine profitably. Another critical factor affecting mine productivity is the method of mining. Some methods, such as open-pit mining, are more efficient than others and can extract more ore from a given deposit. However, they may also be more expensive to implement. Accessibility is another important factor affecting productivity. If a deposit is located in a remote area, it may be difficult or impossible to mine it profitably. Finally, technology can also affect mine productivity. Newer, more efficient mining methods and equipment can significantly increase the amount of ore extracted from a given deposit.
Other factors that can affect mine productivity include the stage of industrial development, transportation facilities, and other infrastructure. In developed countries with good infrastructure, mines can usually operate more efficiently and profitably than in developing countries (see also: Mining digital transformation). In addition, developed countries have better access to technology, finance, and skilled labour. Therefore, when considering mine productivity, it is essential to view all of these factors.
Dive deeper, browse through our wide selection of articles and learn much more about miner safety!