Mining is harvesting of expensive minerals or any other geological resource from the earth. These valuable reserves include precious metals, oil, rock salt and uranium just to mention a few. It is done to anything that cannot be grown using the normal agricultural processes, or made artificially in a lab or factory. It may also be harvesting of non renewable resources such as natural gas, petroleum or water.
Mining of metal and precious stones has been in existence since the early times. Contemporary mining procedures comprises looking for ore bodies, examination of the profit latent of a certain proposed mine field, harvesting of the preferred material and lastly preparing the land for an alternative use when the mining activity has been completed. They way a mining activity is carried out may pose a negative effect on the surroundings when the process is being carried out or many years after the process is completed. Sometimes people have been buried alive in mine pits and others killed or maimed by explosions (Twitty, 2001). It is important therefore to take good measures to avoid accidents. This fact has necessitated creating of laws and regulations in different countries to restrain the harmful effects of the mining procedure. Safety has also been an issue of concern although contemporary mining procedures have significantly improved the safety measures.
Mining is a process that takes several steps from the discovery of something to the harvesting up to the time that the land is got back to its natural state for other uses. The first procedure is discovery which is preceded by exploration so that the mineral is found and identified. The location as well as the amount of the mineral deposit is also established during the exploration stage. This is important so that arithmetical reserve estimation is done to determine the profitability of the probable extraction. It could also be used to determine whether more investment in judgment and engineering may be needed for the purposes of evaluating risks and the financial viability of the project. Once the exploration determines that the project is actually viable, procedures are set on how to extract the mineral deposits. The mining buildings as well as the processing plants are set up and any other needed equipment is acquired. The mining techniques are established and he work starts. There are two mining technique that can be used. These are the underground or the surface excavation. The targeted minerals may come in two formats, placer deposits which consist of precious metal held within gravels and lode deposits in which the mineral is found in the veins or layers of large rocks. Processing of placer deposits is done using methods that depend on gravity, such as use of sluice boxes. Washing or a little shaking is all that is needed to disintegrate the gravels before processing is done. On the other hand, the lode deposits require crushing of the whole rocks to release the mineral before processing begins. In some rare elements such as uranium, the process is done differently where digging is not involved. The extraction requires that the element be soluble for instance potassium chloride. Surface mining involves removing the vegetation or dirt around, in order to access the buried deposits. There are several techniques that could be use. These include open pit mining which involves opening a large pit on the ground surface, quarrying or strip mining which involves stripping of a mountain to reveal the deposits underneath. Stripping is commonly used in mining of coal. Underground mining involve drilling of tunnels into the earth to access the deposits. The minerals are brought up to the surface using the dug shafts. In this case, you can use drift mining where horizontal tunnels are dug, slope mining where the tunnels are slanted or shaft mining where vertical shafts are used.
Mining has many effects to the environment which include erosion, lose of biodiversity, formation of sink holes and contamination of soil or water by chemicals. Sometimes it may necessitate felling of trees to create room for the soil that is being dug or the developed debris. Mining also poses a great danger to the people involved in the operations. Sometimes people have been killed or maimed by explosions which makes it important for the all the necessary measures to be taken to avoid accidents.
Mining was necessitated by the fact that since the early times, men have used ceramics, stones, metals and other materials that are on or near the surface of the earth. These materials were used to manufacture tools, weapons, structures and many other things that facilitated the life of human beings. The earliest known mine is called ‘Lion Cave’ and is found in Swaziland. This mine is around 43,000 years in age according to radiocarbon dating. Human beings mined a mineral called Hematite there, which today is known as iron oxide which was later ground to make a red dye known as ochre. In ancient Egypt, a mineral known as malachite was mined at a place called Maadi (Shaw, 2000). The mineral was used to make ornaments and pots. In Egypt, the gold mines of Nubia formed the biggest and most widespread mines. Fire was one item that was used to break down the hard rock that held gold.
In North America, there exist ancient copper mines at Lake Superior (Lankton, 1991). The miners were the Indians who made different artifacts including arrowheads, spears and other tools that were used in trading. Mining in the US became widespread during the 19th century especially after the General Mining Act of 1872 was passed. This act was passed in order to encourage mining in the federal lands. Mining of precious metals and other minerals together with ranching played a big role in the westward expansion towards the Pacific coast. Exploration started in the west which led to the development of mining camps. This in addition, led to the exodus of many people who went to look for jobs in the mine fields at the West. Some cities in the West like Sacramento and Denver started off as mining towns.
What is the importance of mining to the American people today? The mining industry is one of the sources of financial income in many countries and the US is not exceptional. Through paying of taxes to the government, the companies that are involved in mining bring a sizable income that aids in development. These companies in addition, are a source of employment for millions of people across the nation wherever mining is carried out. Mining also helps to drive technology since these mineral deposits are processed to make components of cars, computers, phones, televisions and other numerous gadgets. Our industries are therefore fully dependent on the extracted deposits without which they would not survive.
In conclusion, mining has been there as for as long as man has existed. The process of mining has revolutionized as technology grows in order to come up with safe and easy ways that are less harmful to the environment. Though mining cause numerous effects to the environment apart from posing danger to the miners, it forms a significant part of human survival. Almost everything that we use today has been made with something that was extracted from the ground. It creates jobs for millions of people apart from generating income for the government through taxes. What should be done therefore is to develop ways and policies that will govern the process to avoid vulnerabilities of the miners as well as reduce the environmental effects that comes with it.