Surface mining has been an ongoing activity since the 16th century and is now practiced all over the world. Like many other sectors, it has been evolving with technology and taking on different shapes, which means that the type of equipment and the surface mining methods used today are entirely different from those of the 16th century. But what exactly is surface mining? And what are the various mining methods and equipment used in this sector today?
Surface mining explained
As the name seems to imply, surface mining refers to the process of extraction in which the soil, rock and other debris covering the mineral deposits are removed for the ore to be accessed. It accounts for two-thirds of global mineral mining and is preferred to underground mining as it is less expensive and less complicated.
The Prime Surface Mining Methods and equipment
This method is used when the mineral deposit is reasonably near the surface. To reach the mineral, the overlying soil and rocks, in technical terms referred to as overburden are first removed exposing the underlying mineral deposit. At times, the ore body is often deep into the earth, which means that a larger volume of overburden has to be stripped so the miners can access the deposit. In other cases, the overburden often consists of hard rock which makes it hard for the ore to be accessed. Hence, even though it sounds like the simplest surface mining method, strip mining uses some of the largest mining equipment in this industry.
There are two strip mining techniques, namely; strip and contour mining. The first one is usually carried out on a fairly flat terrain where the ores are spread out over a large area. Once the minerals are removed, the overburden from the next strip is often placed back in the previous one, meaning less environmental degradation.
The second form of strip mining is often used on a hilly terrain on which and unlike the latter, tends to leave behind terraces on the area it is carried out on.
Open pit mining
The open pit is yet another conventional method used in surface mining. Also known as open cast mining, it involves the extraction of minerals from the deposits by forming a pit. This technique is used when the overburden layer above the mineral deposit is too thin and weak to allow underground mining. It is mostly used in the extraction of gold, copper and iron, and in other cases, the removal of non-metallic minerals.
Some mountains often have mineral deposits near their peaks. For instance, the Appalachian Mountains are rich in coal, a factor that has made mountaintop removal a common practice in the regions of West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and other areas surrounding the mountains. However, even though they are at the peak, they are often too deep to be removed through any of the methods listed above. As a result, the mountaintop is usually removed using explosives to give way for the extraction of the mineral.
Other surface mining methods include dredging, which is often used in water bodies, and high
Equipment used in surface mining
It is important to note that all the equipment used in mine operations are incredibly expensive. Also, these machines carry out tough activities that can easily result in wear and tear. In respect to that, maintenance and repair are of the essence. For instance, you can choose lubrication of such equipment with high-performing mining lubricants by Spectra Oil to ensure that all the parts are working well, hence reducing downtime and loss of profits caused by constant breakdowns.
The machines used in surface mining are often determined by the
– amount of ore to be mined
– the estimated life of the mine
– The speed as well as the distance that the mineral is to be transported after excavation for processing
Some of the most common equipment used in surface mining include rock drills, draglines, cone crushers, haul trucks, cranes, backhoes, jaw crushers, in-pit conveyor systems, bucket wheel excavators, scoops, dozers, screw conveyors, truck haulage, feeders, overland conveyor systems and Dredges among many others.