Underground mines vs. surface mines
When we think of the word ‘mining’, images of dark cramped corridors cut through the rock deep beneath the earth’s surface come to our mind. However, this is but one form of mining called ‘underground mining’.
“But isn’t all mining obviously done underground?”, you say.
No indeed! There are three other types of mining. Let’s discuss.
Firstly, where does the word ‘mine’ come from? It is Latin: mina, minera “ore”. And for those of you who don’t know, ‘ore’ is a naturally occurring solid material from which a metal or valuable mineral can be profitably extracted. [Source: Oxford]
4 Types of mines
In order to understand the types of different mines, the best way is to note the different materials collected by each mine. Essentially, the reason we have different types of mines is to mine different types of materials (metal, rock, sand), found at different depths in the Earth.
When desirable materials are near the earth’s surface, then we need a surface mine to extract them. In other words, there are no deep, dark chasms and drilling. Here are the different types of surface mines:
Open pit mines
These mines are unmistakable in their appearance. They cover a very wide amount of space (several kilometers), and they look like canyons or valleys, but with their slopes being ‘steps’, or ‘terraces’. Each step or terrace is actually a ‘road’, and the walls of each terrace level are blasted out, and put in a massive truck for processing. These types of mines typically mine ores like: copper, iron, aluminum. These mines employ blasting to remove the rock and get access to the ore.
These mines don’t go as deep as the open pit mines we mentioned above, and don’t look like canyons. According to the Citizens Coal Council “Explosives are used to fracture any overlying rock, and then heavy machinery is used to remove the overburden and dump it into a nearby area. Mining is done in long, narrow strips, thus the name ‘strip mining'”. Strip mines are most commonly used for mining coal.
At Kalamazoo, this is the type of mining we do. We perform a geological survey to find a mountain which is composed of the type of rock we want. We then very precisely blast off sections of the face of the mountain with explosives. Making sure that after the blast the mountain still retains its shape, otherwise too much material will collapse. As we blast off sections, we collect the rubble, and sort it into different sizes, and crush it further to get the exact sizes we need. Quarry mines are used for mining: sand, gravel, clay, granite.
Last and certainly not least, in fact the most expensive, we have underground mines! These are considerably more expensive to operate, therefore they are only used when the material being mined is highly valuable. In other words, you won’t see underground mines for extracting sand and gravel!
Why is mining important?
Mines provide minerals essential for today’s technology:
- Cars & trucks
The list goes on!
The quartz is needed for the screens for our mobile phones and laptops. Quartz comes from the mineral silicon.
The circuit boards and electronics we use need gold and silver.
Cars use steel. Steel is made from Iron, which comes from minerals magnetite and hematite.
Airplanes use aluminum (mined from bauxite) and platinum (mined from rutile and ilmenite).
In other words, if we couldn’t mine, we would not have the materials we need to make vehicles or electronics, not to mention the gravel and rock needed for building roads and making concrete for buildings.
We’ve got your gravel, sand and rock!
At Kalamazoo we have a wide selection of rock for your landscaping needs. Check out our catalogs, we’re confident we have the size and color that you need, no matter what type of project you have!
- Nevada: Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City
- Arizona: Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Casa Grande
- Southern California: Palm Springs, Bakersfield, Victorville, Riverside, San Diego, Los Angeles
- Utah: Salt Lake City, Saint George