Introduction to Mining Engineering Book

Topics: Mining, Mineral, Ore Pages: 39 (8968 words) Published: March 10, 2013
Mining may well have been the second of humankind’s earliest endeavors — granted that agriculture was the first. The two industries ranked together as the primary or basic industries of early civilization. Little has changed in the importance of these industries since the beginning of civilization. If we consider fishing and lumbering as part of agriculture and oil and gas production as part of mining, then agriculture and mining continue to supply all the basic resources used by modern civilization.

From prehistoric times to the present, mining has played an important part in human existence (Madigan, 1981). Here the term mining is used in its broadest context as encompassing the extraction of any naturally occurring mineral substances — solid, liquid, and gas — from the earth or other heavenly bodies for utilitarian purposes. The most prominent of these uses for minerals are identified in Table 1.1.

The history of mining is fascinating. It parallels the history of civilization, with many important cultural eras associated with and identified by various minerals or their derivatives: the Stone Age (prior to 4000 ...), the Bronze Age (4000 to 5000 ...), the Iron Age (1500 ... to 1780 ..), the Steel Age (1780 to 1945), and the Nuclear Age (1945 to the present). Many milestones in human history — Marco Polo’s journey to China, Vasco da Gama’s voyages to Africa and India, Columbus’s discovery of the New World, and the modern gold rushes that led to the settlement of California, Alaska, South Africa, Australia, and the Canadian Klondike — were achieved with minerals providing a major incentive (Rickard, 1932). Other interesting aspects of mining and metallurgical history can be found by referring to the historical record provided by Gregory (1980), Raymond (1984), and Lacy and Lacy (1992). 1



Table 1.1 Humans’ Uses of Minerals

Need or Use
Tools and utensils
Ornaments and decoration
Structures and devices
Nuclear fission



Food, shelter
Hunting, defense, warfare
Jewelry, cosmetics, dye
Monetary exchange
Shelter, transport
Heat, power
Computers, communications
Power, warfare


The abundance of minerals also provides a method of creating wealth. Minerals can be marketed on the open market, enabling the countries that possess them to obtain valuable currency from countries that do not. This generally results in the minerals-rich countries being the great civilizations of the world while the ‘have-not’ countries generally suffer from a lower standard of living. For more on this topic, see Section 1.6. The ability to use mineral resources as a means of creating wealth opens the possibility that a given country or countries will attempt to control the entire market in a particular mineral, that is, to create an economic cartel in that mineral. In 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) attempted to control oil prices in a bold maneuver to obtain windfall profits from the oil they produced. Although successful in the short run, the cartel eventually lost effectiveness because of increased oil production elsewhere and difficulty in controlling their own member countries. For a few years, OPEC was successful at regulating petroleum prices in an awesome display of the value of possessing and producing some of the world’s most valuable minerals. Other cartels have likewise been attempted. However, the greater freedom in international trade now makes such an attempt less likely to succeed.

There are many terms and expressions unique to mining that characterize the field and identify the user of such terms as a ‘‘mining person.’’ The student of mining is thus advised to become familiar with all the terms used...
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